Gareth Bale must play for Real Madrid as he has helped deliver titles, insisted team-mate Casemiro.

Bale reminded Zinedine Zidane what he is capable of with an assist in an impressive performance as Madrid opened their LaLiga campaign by beating Celta Vigo 3-1.

The Wales star had been tipped to leave Madrid after head coach Zidane said last month it would be better for him to depart the Santiago Bernabeu, where Bale has won four Champions League titles and a LaLiga crown among other trophies.

Bale – who was linked with a move to the Chinese Super League – now looks set to remain in the Spanish capital, and Madrid midfielder Casemiro praised him following Saturday's triumph.

"He [Bale] has given us titles, he's scored in finals and he has a lot of respect from us all," Casemiro said.

"He has to play. He's a great player and is very important for us."

Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois added: "He is an important player and played a great match. Everyone loves him and it is important that he plays for us. We are so happy with Bale."

It was a winning start for Madrid, who survived a Luka Modric red card as they overcame Celta with 10 men away from home.

Bale teed up Karim Benzema for the 12th-minute opener before Modric was sent off for catching Denis Suarez on the heel following a VAR review approaching the hour mark.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Madrid wrapped up all three points thanks to Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez, while Iker Losada netted a stoppage-time consolation.

"Preseason was not easy for us, there were games in which we did not play well, but we knew we doing things right," Courtois said. "We feel good, today we showed that. We played a good game and we went ahead with 10 players. That is key.
 
"We knew that in the second half they were going to press us. In the one-on-one with Aspas I did well, made a good save. I have good reflexes and I got a hand to it. That helped give the team real confidence. We did well today but it is a shame not keep a clean sheet. We need to keep it up and work hard. Now we focus on Valladolid."

Luka Modric says the stamp on Denis Suarez for which he was sent off against Celta Vigo was "an accidental action".

Real Madrid ran out 3-1 winners at Balaidos in their first LaLiga game of the season on Saturday despite Modric's dismissal.

The Ballon d'Or winner was shown the red card for the first time in LaLiga after catching Suarez early in the second half.

Modric was sent off after a VAR review, but after the game he used social media to protest his innocence.

"Sent off for an accidental action," he wrote on Twitter, "In life I would never intentionally make such an action on a player. Totally involuntary!"

However, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos understood the decision by VAR to show Modric the red card.

"Everything used to protect football is good," Ramos said when asked his view on the technology.

"Today the decision was against us. We ended up with one less man, I don't think Modric went in with bad intention but he arrived late and the referee had doubts.

"He spoke to the other officials and reached that decision. VAR's there to help us and if these decisions protect football then they are welcome."

Zinedine Zidane praised Gareth Bale for his display against Celta Vigo and confirmed the Wales star will remain a Real Madrid player beyond the end of the transfer window.

Bale was told by Zidane in July it would be better for him to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, but a remarkable turnaround in fortunes saw him handed a start in Madrid's opening LaLiga match of the season.

He made the most of his opportunity by setting up Karim Benzema for Madrid's opening goal with some good play down the left in Saturday's 3-1 win at Balaidos, while also helping out defensively.

European clubs have a further two weeks to make signings, but Zidane has ruled out an exit for Bale at this stage.

"We talked before the game to say that he is going to stay and all the players we have now are thinking only about the season," the Madrid head coach said at his post-match news conference. 

"I think that Gareth and the others are only thinking about staying and playing."

Despite being light of options in attack due to the injury absence of new signing Eden Hazard, Zidane decided against bringing on James Rodriguez from the bench.

However, Zidane also offered an olive branch to the Colombia international, who has been strongly linked with a move away from the Spanish capital since returning from a loan at Bayern Munich.

"Hazard's injury is bad luck for us and I would have liked to have Eden," Zidane said. "It has not been possible and then from there we put another player into the side. 

"We began with Vinicius [Junior] and Gareth up top with Karim and I think it was a good game by all of them.

"Nothing has changed. We are now at the start of the season and I believe that Gareth, James and all the players that are here think about that and do their best to defend this shirt."

Madrid lost Luka Modric to a red card after Benzema had opened the scoring, but Toni Kroos and substitute Lucas Vazquez found the net before Iker Losada scored a last-gasp consolation.

Zidane was pleased with his side's winning start, coming a day after champions Barcelona suffered a 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao.

"We made a complete match from the beginning," he said. "The same playing later with 10 men. 

"I am happy and satisfied because it is a difficult ground and I believe that there are not many teams that will come and win here. 

"I'm also happy after the pre-season we have had, with complicated results. This is the fruit of that because, in the end, the competition was what mattered to us and starting in the league in this way was very good."

Having started on the right, Gareth Bale drifted to the lift, cavorted into space and set up Karim Benzema. One-nil to Real Madrid.

Football seems a simple game at times.

It would be doing a disservice to Bale to dismiss his role in this goal as entirely straightforward. The pace he used to reach Marcelo's throughball, the speed of close control that left David Costas spinning on the spot, the weight of cross to give Benzema an easy finish – it was all of the highest quality.

It also showed why Zinedine Zidane was correct to put faith in Bale to deliver in this LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo, despite the prolonged, exasperating uncertainty over his future. From benchwarmer at the end of last season, to Zidane telling everyone it would be better for Bale to leave in July, to a transfer to Jiangsu Suning that never happened, to a place back in the starting line-up for the first game of the new season – it's been a chaotic three months.

That's the issue with Bale, of course: everything about him seems to get more complicated – and more dramatic – in the inexorable scrutiny in which he lives his life.

Coaches everywhere have specific ideas that mean certain players become surplus to requirements, but Zidane versus Bale has sometimes been billed as a spat so venomous it's left poison dripping from the dressing-room walls. Footballers like to do things in their spare time apart from play football, like have a game of golf; when Bale picks up his irons, it's considered tantamount to a betrayal of professional decency. That's how it can feel from the outside, which maybe gives you an indication of why Bale so rarely bothers speaking out in public. Those waters can't get much muddier.

The truth of Bale's position at Madrid is probably less complicated than some think – and that is a good summary of what makes Bale the footballer so effective. It's why he was fleetingly impressive at Balaidos on Saturday in a battling 3-1 win, even if Madrid as a collective sometimes looked little better than the ragged bunch who shipped seven goals to Atletico Madrid last month.

Bale's assist was borne of him being as direct as possible: running behind the full-back, using a step-over and twist of the body to shake off the marker with the ball still in motion, and crossing into a dangerous zone with that precise left foot. Later in the half, he overtook Lucas Olaza when chasing a long ball despite the defender having close to a three-metre head start. It was an awesome display of speed and fitness from a man who has not exactly had a busy pre-season.

Moments after Madrid's opener, he was blocking a cross in his own box after racing back to protect the nervy Alvaro Odriozola. That's something he isn't so used to doing, but it came from the same sort of focused approach that makes him so clinical at the other end. You watch, you run, you act – shoot, cross, or, in this case, tackle. This is what Bale offers; it's what he has always offered.

The issue of his future isn't likely to get any clearer until the transfer window closes on September 2, but this game at least showed what a tremendous asset Bale can be when he is deployed with simple precision. For a coach like Zidane, who freely admits he is not the most pedantic of tacticians, that makes Bale valuable – especially in a Madrid team as muddled as this one.

Gareth Bale marked his return to the starting line-up with an impressive assist as Real Madrid survived a red card for Luka Modric to win 3-1 at Celta Vigo in their opening LaLiga fixture of the season.

The Wales star had been left out in the cold for large parts of pre-season following a collapsed move to China, but he was handed a start at Balaidos on Saturday and set up Karim Benzema for a 12th-minute opener.

Looking to capitalise on champions Barcelona's shock loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday, Madrid added a stunning second goal through Toni Kroos, but only after Brais Mendez had a strike ruled out and Modric was shown a straight red card.

Zinedine Zidane started without any of his new signings, although the quality of his side's third goal - rounded off by substitute Lucas Vazquez - will offer hope of a far brighter 2019-20, despite them conceding late on through Iker Losada.

Madrid had lost back-to-back league matches at the end of last season, but they soon found their rhythm here as Bale turned his man inside out down the left and set up Benzema for a simple finish from four yards.

Celta felt there should have been a free-kick in the build-up and were further aggrieved in the final stages of the first half when Alvaro Odriozola was dispossessed by Denis Suarez and the ball fell to the feet of Iago Aspas, who was adjudged to be marginally offside when teeing up Mendez for a close-range finish.

Celta's hopes of claiming a point were boosted when Modric caught Suarez on the heel and was shown a red card following a VAR review.

Nestor Araujo forced Thibaut Courtois into a point-blank save but Madrid dug deep and scored a second thanks to Kroos' stunning strike from 35 yards, a minute after Benzema's header struck the post.

Vazquez rounded off a flowing move 10 minutes from time by drilling a good finish into the bottom-left corner, although Celta at least got a consolation through Losada's precise strike from a similar spot at the other end.

What does it mean? Familiar faces on show for Madrid

Madrid spent big during the close season in an attempt to bridge the gap to Barcelona, who finished 19 points clear of them last season.

Eden Hazard, Rodrygo Goes and Ferland Mendy all missed out through injury, though, while Eder Militao and Luka Jovic were named on the bench, so it was left to the old guard - not least Bale, Benzema, Kroos and Vazquez - to get the job done.

Bale makes his point

Zidane admitted on the eve of the game he was now "relying" on Bale and the forward did not disappoint on his return to the side. As well as setting up Benzema's goal with an impressive assist, he also helped out in a defensive sense.

Odriozola's blushes spared

Not helped by Courtois' pass, Odriozola was put under pressure and lost possession on the right. The offside flag came to the full-back's rescue that time, but it was generally a nervy display.

What's next?

Madrid welcome Real Valladolid to the Santiago Bernabeu next Saturday, while Celta host Valencia on the same day.

Gareth Bale looks set to get another chance at Real Madrid after he was named in their starting XI for the opening LaLiga game of the season at Celta Vigo.

Bale seemed certain to depart Madrid after six seasons with coach Zinedine Zidane, whom the Wales star has a rocky relationship with, making it clear during pre-season he wanted the forward to leave.

But, after a move to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League collapsed and no other realistic suitors emerged, Bale has been reintegrated into the Madrid squad.

The Cardiff-born forward has consistently delivered across a trophy-laden spell, but he often lived in the shadow of the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo – who was worshipped above all others at the Santiago Bernabeu before his departure to Juventus last year – and suffered with injuries.

There is no club in world football with higher expectations of its players than Madrid and Bale has at times been forced to toil under what many would consider unfair scrutiny and criticism, but an examination of his record in the Spanish capital shows his value.

Goal return to rival Ronaldo 

Bale left Tottenham as a once orthodox winger who had blossomed into a goal-scoring force on the flank and has continued that development in Madrid.

He scored 22 times in all competitions during his first season and added another 80 over the next five to join an exclusive club of players to have hit a century of goals for Los Blancos.

Among that group is Brazil legend Ronaldo, a beloved figure but one who finished his Madrid career with only two more goals (104) than the oft-maligned Bale's 102. Just 12 others have struck more for a club with a glittering 117-year history.

Bale has laid on 55 more - more than the talented Isco - during his time in Madrid, and has been responsible for the sixth-most goal involvements in LaLiga, even as the club stuttered to three third-place finishes and a single title.

Standing tall on Europe's grand stage

Madrid's success under Zidane has come largely in Europe, for which Bale can take a good portion of credit.

The Wales international fired his team ahead in the 2014 triumph over rivals Atletico Madrid, notched an assist and a successful spot-kick against the same opposition two years later, and then returned from injury in time for the crushing victory over Juventus in Cardiff in 2017.

That is all without mentioning his match-winning impact in Kiev.

Bale scored twice off the bench in 2018, the first a bicycle kick that dented Liverpool's nascent comeback and the second a speculative long-range shot that smashed it into pieces.

The brace elevated him to what is now a selection of seven players - including Ronaldo - to have struck two goals or more in a Champions League final.

 

Breaking new ground for British footballers

Criticism of Bale for failing to communicate with the media in Spanish dwarfed the plaudits directed his way for venturing where few of his compatriots had gone before.

Then aged 24, the Southampton academy product spurned reported interest from Premier League heavyweights Manchester United to become the third Welshman - and first in more than 25 years - to play in LaLiga.

He is the leading British scorer (78 goals) and appearance maker (155) in the competition's history, relegating David Beckham to second place in the latter category.

Yet, while Bale has struggled to gain Zidane's acceptance, reportedly in part because of his reluctance to assimilate to life in Spain, the France legend praised Beckham for being a "truly great professional" as recently as 2013.

That was despite him once admitting his "friendship with David is little. On the pitch, we understand each other perfectly, but as I don't speak English and he doesn't speak Spanish we are a little bit lost."

Bale might justifiably feel his efforts deserve greater affection - but now he has another chance to win supporters and Zidane over.

Dani Ceballos starred on his full Arsenal debut, creating both the Gunners' goals as Unai Emery's side triumphed 2-1 at home to Burnley.

The midfielder - on loan from Real Madrid - put in a sensational performance, running the show for Arsenal, having 97 touches - more than any of his team-mates.

Ceballos also attempted 70 passes and created four chances and became the third Arsenal player to register two assists on his first Premier League start.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, against Everton in 2018, and Ray Parlour had previously achieved that feat.

It was some way to make an impression for Ceballos, who has struggled to cement his place at Madrid.

Gareth Bale has been named in the Real Madrid XI for their first match of the new LaLiga season against Celta Vigo, despite appearing destined to leave the club in this transfer window.

Bale, whose relationship with head coach Zinedine Zidane has long appeared strained, saw a July move to Jiangsu Suning collapse, while mooted transfers to other European giants never materialised.

But on the eve of the season, Zidane insisted he would use the winger while he remained in his squad and duly named him in the line-up for Saturday's meeting at Balaidos.

With Eden Hazard ruled out by a late muscle injury, Bale and Vinicius Junior will support Karim Benzema in attack as Madrid attempt to capitalise on Barcelona's surprise loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Madrid have invested heavily in the close season, yet Hazard's absence sees them start the first match of the new campaign without a single new signing in the side.

Luka Jovic is among the substitutes, along with James Rodriguez, who had been linked to rivals Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid team to face Celta Vigo:

Courtois; Odriozola, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Vinicius, Benzema.

Subs: Navas, Militao, Nacho, James, Vazquez, Jovic, Isco.

Neymar will not take part in Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 meeting with Rennes on Sunday, but Thomas Tuchel still has hope of keeping the Brazil star at the club.

Doubt remains over Neymar's future at PSG, with Barcelona and Real Madrid having reportedly had bids rejected for the wantaway forward.

Neymar has been returning to full fitness from an ankle injury that kept him out of the Copa America, but he was included in Tite's Brazil squad for September friendlies against Colombia and Peru, while PSG sporting director Leonardo has claimed the problem has "completely healed."

Neymar was left out of PSG's opening fixture against Nimes, and the 27-year-old will again be absent when the champions travel to Rennes, although head coach Tuchel insists there has been no change in the situation regarding a possible transfer.

"He started the training session with us, but finished individually," Tuchel told a news conference. "It's a little too early [for him] to start in a match, especially at Rennes' home.

"He is my player and when I think of a strong team, it includes him. If there is no solution for him, he will stay with us.

"For now, nothing has changed. Neymar has three years left on his contract.

"He is sensitive, so I will always protect him. He needs to train with us and raise his intensity.

"I want to see him play at his best level for 90 minutes, with aggression and lots of dribbling."

While Neymar will not feature against Rennes, Idrissa Gueye is set to travel, though Tuchel suggested the former Everton midfielder would not be fit to start.

"Integration is easy with Idrissa: he can talk with everyone, he is very polite, humble," said Tuchel, who will also be without Presnel Kimpembe, Ander Herrera, Thilo Kehrer and Layvin Kurzawa.

"He has to adapt to our style of play, to our principles. It's a little early for him, but he's going to make the trip with us.

"He's a player who can play at [number] six or eight but, for me, he's better at six. That's what we expect from him."

The Premier League window may have already closed, but Manchester United and Manchester City are still in the headlines.

After going head-to-head for Harry Maguire, the two Manchester clubs are reportedly eyeing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

This rumour will not go away anytime soon.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AND CITY BATTLING FOR SANCHO

According to the Daily Mail, Sancho will leave Dortmund at the end of the season as rivals United and City do battle for the England international.

Sancho was reportedly on United's list of targets during the off-season, but Dortmund were unwilling to sell their 19-year-old star.

The English talent has flourished since joining Dortmund from Premier League champions City in 2017, and the Daily Mail claims the Bundesliga club are already looking for replacements.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Inter are considering a move for Man United's Alexis Sanchez after missing out on Edin Dzeko, reports Gianlucadimarzio.com. Bosnian striker Dzeko signed a new contract with Roma and Inter are now looking for alternatives, including Sanchez, free agent Fernando Llorente, Eintracht Frankfurt star Ante Rebic and Arkadiusz Milik, who could be used in a swap involving Mauro Icardi.

- According to le10sport, Ajax, AC Milan and Lille are among the clubs interested in Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo. The 19-year-old arrived from Toulouse in January.

- Brescia have offered former Juventus and Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio a two-year deal, reports Sky Sport Italia and other outlets in the country. Marchisio is a free agent after leaving Zenit and the 33-year-old could be joined at Brescia by Mario Balotelli.

- Sport claims Barcelona are prepared to sell midfielder Arturo Vidal for €20million as the Chile international continues to be linked to Inter and a reunion with former Juve boss Antonio Conte.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Napoli and Juve are the only options for Inter outcast Icardi following Dzeko's Roma renewal.

- James Rodriguez may not leave Real Madrid following an injury to Eden Hazard, according to reports. James had been tipped to join either Napoli or Atletico Madrid, but the Colombia star is in Madrid's squad for their LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Luka Jovic have been named in the Real Madrid squad to face Celta Vigo.

The attacking trio have been called up by head coach Zinedine Zidane for the opening match of Madrid's LaLiga season.

However, Eden Hazard is not in the 22, having sustained a muscle injury this week.

Bale's future at the club has been in doubt for some months and he appeared set to join Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League only for the deal to fall through.

James has also been tipped to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, although reported interest from Napoli and Atletico Madrid has not materialised into a transfer.

Jovic joined Madrid from Eintracht Frankfurt in June for a reported €60million, but it has been suggested he could be sent out on loan for 2019-20.

Speaking on Friday, Zidane insisted he was happy to use James and Bale in the first team, despite the uncertainty over their long-term futures.

Their chances of playing against Celta have increased since Hazard is unavailable due to a thigh injury.

Brazil coach Tite says star player Neymar would never be left out of one of his squads as long as he was fit to feature.

Neymar was not involved for Paris Saint-Germain in their opening Ligue 1 fixture of the season against Nimes as speculation continues over his future.

Barcelona have long been linked with a move for their former forward, with reports this week claiming PSG have turned down a bid from the Catalan giants, as well as their LaLiga rivals Real Madrid.

PSG paid a world record €222million to sign Neymar from Barca in 2017 but his time in Paris has been blighted by injuries while team-mate Kylian Mbappe has become a key figure for Thomas Tuchel's side.

Neymar suffered a blow at the end of last season when, after recovering from a foot problem, he sustained an ankle injury which kept him out of the Copa America – a tournament Brazil won on home soil in his absence.

But the 27-year-old, whose injury has "completely healed" according to PSG sporting director Leonardo, features in Tite's squad for September friendlies against Colombia and Copa America finalists Peru.

"What I will say is that, concerning to a player with such a level and quality as Neymar, we would never leave him out of this group," Tite told a news conference on Friday.

"We talked about three aspects that we can make public, not all the conversation but these things we can. Firstly, his moment and how he felt. He said he was happy, feeling okay and he had been working normally.

"I asked about his emotional situation because this influences the athlete's performance. He said he was calm, that he knew things were taking their way and that he was waiting for PSG to give a definition of his situation.

"The third aspect we talked about was how he felt about playing before our matches, because there's an optimal time to play as long as he's available."

Philippe Coutinho was reportedly included in Barca's offer to PSG for Neymar, and though the playmaker has struggled to cement a place at Camp Nou, Tite is confident he will soon rediscover his best form for club and country.

"He's had highs and lows," Tite added. "He started the Copa America, more precisely the first two matches, being the star of it.

"And then he drops a bit, but gets back to his level. He's a great player and hopefully he'll get back to that pattern from Liverpool.

"But it's normal, sometimes, when you change clubs. I'm sure that getting back to his former level is his goal and ours too."

Eden Hazard has been dealt an injury blow ahead of Real Madrid's season opener at Celta Vigo.

On Friday it was confirmed the Belgium forward has suffered a "muscular injury to the anterior part of his right thigh".

Los Blancos did not state how much action the big-money signing from Chelsea will miss, but his bow in LaLiga is set to be delayed.

"His recovery will continue to be assessed," Madrid said on their website.

Reports in Spain suggest Hazard will miss a few weeks of action and may not feature for Madrid until after the first international window in September.

It leaves head coach Zinedine Zidane facing a selection dilemma and may see an unlikely opportunity for Gareth Bale, who appeared destined to leave the Santiago Bernabeu in this transfer window.

James Rodriguez, who also looked set to depart the club, Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior provide other options for Zidane in the absence of Hazard.

Zinedine Zidane says there will "always be pessimism" at Real Madrid and he is unconcerned by Los Blancos' patchy showings in pre-season.

Even before a ball was kicked in LaLiga this term, the circus was seemingly in town at the Santiago Bernabeu amid rumours in Spain of growing tension at the club.

Madrid limped to a third-place finish last term and the returning Zidane saw the club fork out large sums to revamp the squad with Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Luka Jovic all arriving – although rumours suggest the latter may already be headed for the exit door on loan.

But Madrid have thus far been unsuccessful in rumoured pursuits of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, while their warm-up games have offered little cause for optimism.

Madrid have suffered defeats to Bayern Munich, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid – the latter a 7-3 rout – while they shipped three in a victory over Fenerbahce and only defeated Salzburg 1-0.

Coach Zidane, though, was a figure of calm when assessing Madrid's chances of success this season, with their campaign starting at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

"There will always be pessimists. Real Madrid will always have these things. Whether there are good results or not, people will always argue about things," he said.

"We need our fans to be with us, as they always are. We will try to make things exciting for the fans by playing good football. That's all we can do.

"We want to start and here we are. We've had our final training session and we want to get this league started. We are very happy to begin and we're ready.

"I want to play well and get results. That's what I'm most worried about. The most important thing for me is what we do on the pitch.

"We try to do things well as a team together. If we do that, we will win as a team. I prefer it if we play well because it's important to do that at Real Madrid."

As well as seemingly missing out on potential incomings, Madrid have also failed to find new homes for Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez who at one stage appeared certain to leave.

Zidane insists he is happy with the make-up of his squad, though.

"I'm happy with what I've got. We have all sat down and spoke about this. This is what we have, the players that we have. I'm interested and ready to work with these players," he added.

"We can't talk about other things we can't affect. You can talk about other players if you like but I'm going to focus on tomorrow. I am what I am. Sometimes we all have changes of mood when things don't go right, but I'm not going to waste time. I'm smiling, I'm happy because we love football. We are very lucky to do this.

"I don't think about the past, what we have won, because football is about what is coming up in the future.

"If I had to think coming back was a risk, it would not be an easy thing to do. I don't think about the criticism, it's all part of the job. It's part of life of a coach.

"I know where I'm going and what I want from my players, I know what I want on the pitch. We have to be competitive, win matches and win titles. We have to do that throughout the season."

Zinedine Zidane is surprised Gareth Bale remains a Real Madrid player but has vowed to use the Welshman regularly this season.

Bale saw a move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning collapse in July and looks set to stay at the Bernabeu, despite tenuous links to Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain refusing to go away.

With the European transfer window still open and amid rumours of a falling-out with Zidane, the 30-year-old forward missed Madrid's previous three friendlies before coming on as a substitute in last weekend's defeat on penalties to Roma.

Ahead of Saturday's LaLiga opener with Celta Vigo, Zidane gave Bale his backing and challenged the forward to "make things difficult" for him in terms of his squad selection.

"It seemed that he was going, but now he is with us," the Frenchman said at his pre-match news conference on Friday.

"Things change and now I will be using him as much as the other players in the squad. I'm going to use all the players I've got.

"He is registered with us and he is a good player. I hope all the players here want to make things difficult for me."

James Rodriguez is another player facing an uncertain future in the Spanish capital, having yet to feature for Madrid since returning from a two-year loan spell with Bayern Munich.

Like Bale, though, Zidane will give rumoured Napoli and Atletico Madrid target James an opportunity to prove himself.

"James is fit and we are happy to have him in the squad," Zidane said. "I'll repeat what I said before - I have a big squad and I'll use all the players. They're all happy to be here."

Zidane was brought back to the Bernabeu for a second spell in charge in March and has been heavily backed during the close season with the arrivals of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy.

The transfer window remains open for Spanish clubs until September 2 and there are continued links with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar.

But Zidane was in no mood to entertain speculation regarding further incoming players.

"Neymar is not a Real Madrid player," he said. "The important thing is the players that are here.

"Paul is a player who plays for Manchester United, you must respect that.

"I'm happy with the players I've got. I'm just focused on the game tomorrow, nothing else.

"We are ready and want to play a good game. I've got the best players, I've always said that. All I'm worried about is what we are going to do tomorrow."

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