Barcelona are prepared to use Antoine Griezmann in a deal to land Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar, 28, has constantly been linked with a return to Camp Nou, but ended up staying at PSG during the last close season.

It seems Barcelona will pursue the Brazil international again and they may be prepared to offer Griezmann in a deal.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA TO OFFER GRIEZMANN TO PSG IN NEYMAR DEAL

Despite it proving such an ordeal to sign Griezmann in the first place, Barca will try to use him as a makeweight in a deal to land Neymar, according to Sky Sports.

The report says the Spanish giants are prepared to let Griezmann go just one season after signing him from Atletico Madrid, as they reportedly also target Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

Barca will try to sell the forward elsewhere if PSG are not interested, the story claims, with the Frenchman underwhelming since his switch to Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are apparently preparing for a battle with Germany. The Mirror reports Germany see Jurgen Klopp – contracted at Anfield until 2024 – as a successor to coach Joachim Low.

Manchester United remain interested in Erling Haaland. ESPN claims the Premier League club are again ready to compete for the forward's services with Real Madrid if the Norway international decides to leave Borussia Dortmund.

- Will Gareth Bale remain at Real Madrid? The Mirror suggests the Wales international is ready to fight for his place at the Santiago Bernabeu despite his differences with coach Zinedine Zidane.

Saul Niguez is apparently wanted in the Premier League. AS says Man United are willing to pay around £71million (€80m) for the Atletico midfielder, who has a release clause of £132.5m (€150m).

Barcelona may be prepared to sell players this close season, but Arthur will not be among them. Sport reports the Spanish champions see the midfielder as a key player. Meanwhile, it is also claimed Gent star Jonathan David has been offered to the Blaugrana.

Juventus have reportedly secured the futures of two players. Rai Sport understands Blaise Matuidi has extended his contract with Juve until 2021, while Marko Pjaca – who is on loan at Anderlecht – has agreed to a deal until 2023.

Real Madrid have seemingly set their sights on Eduardo Camavinga, and it may be one of several changes at the LaLiga club.

Camavinga, 17, has been linked to several European giants after impressing for Rennes.

The teenage midfielder is a target for Madrid, who could be set for sweeping changes in the close season.

 

TOP STORY – CAMAVINGA THE PREFERENCE FOR REAL MADRID

Camavinga is the preference for Real Madrid as it is likely to prove tough to land Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, according to Marca.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is also keen to avoid becoming too reliant on Casemiro, the report says.

Camavinga has made 25 Ligue 1 appearances for Rennes this season, including 24 starts.

ROUND-UP

- It may be just one of several changes at Real Madrid. AS reports there must be exits if players are to come in, with James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez and Mariano Diaz potentially leaving. The futures of Nacho Fernandez, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Brahim Diaz are also uncertain.

- Staying at Real Madrid and AS reports the coronavirus pandemic may impact what the club do with Martin Odegaard. The Norway international was expected to spend another season on loan at Real Sociedad but could return ahead of the next campaign as clubs become stricter with their finances.

- Diego Costa has scored just twice in 19 games for Atletico Madrid this season and could be set for a move. Sport reports Roma are interested in the 31-year-old forward.

- Achraf Hakimi appears likely to return to Real Madrid from his loan at Borussia Dortmund. However, the Mirror reports Chelsea have enquired about the defender.

- After impressing with Wolves in the Premier League, Raul Jimenez is attracting interest. Sport reports the Mexico forward could return to LaLiga, with Real Madrid and former club Atletico Madrid interested.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Pedro is poised to leave Chelsea. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Lazio are interested in the attacker.

Gareth Bale is a player in need of some home comforts when Real Madrid face off against Barcelona in a crucial Clasico in LaLiga on Sunday.

The Wales forward has endured a frustrating barren run for Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu and it has now been 12 calendar months since his last home goal.

Bale last celebrated a LaLiga goal in front of his home supporters in a 2-0 triumph over Celta Vigo on March 16, 2019 and it would certainly be a welcome time to end the wait against new table-toppers Barca.

But just how does Bale's record over the last year stack up against his fellow Madrid forwards? With the help of Opta data, we have taken a look.


BALE'S BARREN RUN PART OF WIDER ISSUE?

Madrid have faced questions over their goal-scoring abilities since selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus ahead of the 2018-19 season and the evidence suggests their forwards are struggling collectively to share the burden at home.

Since March 16 last year, Karim Benzema has done his part to pick up the slack with an impressive 18 in 20 Bernabeu appearances in LaLiga.

Beyond that, the reading is a little grim. Rodrygo Goes has an impressive six in 10 but the only other players with more than one are Isco (two in 13) and Mariano Diaz (two from two).

Bale has not scored in 10 outings, albeit only five of those were from the start, with Lucas Vazquez and Brahim Diaz also goalless from 12 and seven home appearances respectively.

Vinicius Junior (one in 14), Eden Hazard (one in nine), Luka Jovic (one in nine) and James Rodriguez (one in five) all have a solitary strike to their name.


ARE MADRID SHOT-SHY?

Bale's lack of goals is not for the want of trying. His 20 shots attempted at the Bernabeu are beaten only by Benzema (87) and Vinicius (26) during the time period in question.

Hazard (13), Rodrygo (13), Isco (11), Vazquez (10) and Jovic (10) all have significantly fewer shots, while James has 11 from his five appearances so has a similar ratio to Bale.

More worryingly, though, is the fact just three of Bale's attempts have been on target. Vinicius (14), Isco (seven), Rodrygo (seven) and Hazard (seven) have all worked visiting goalkeepers more, while Benzema is once again the standout performer with 43 efforts on target.

Mariano (four) has more shots on target, while Vazquez (three) and Brahim (three) tally the same as Bale. Jovic (two) and James (two) are the only two with fewer, though the latter has played in five fewer games.


STRUGGLING TO CREATE?

A lack of goals is not necessarily the only concern for Bale. He has just two LaLiga assists at the Bernabeu since his last home goal and created just five chances.

Hazard only has one assist but has created 17 opportunities, while Vinicius has three and 18 in the respective categories.

Vinicius is one of only two players with more assists than Bale, though. Benzema unsurprisingly leads the way on eight, Brahim also has two, while Vazquez, Rodrygo, Jovic and James all only have one.

In terms of chances created, Vinicius (18), Vazquez (17), Rodrygo (12), Isco (11), Brahim (eight) and James (eight) all have more than Bale. Benzema, who has played more than any other forward in this time, has 37.

Raheem Sterling and Aymeric Laporte have been named in Manchester City's initial squad for Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg with Real Madrid.

England international Sterling has missed City's last two games with a hamstring injury, while Laporte left the field before the hour mark in Saturday's 1-0 win against Leicester City.

However, both players have been included as part of the Premier League champions' 22-man travelling party for the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Leroy Sane was thought to be in contention after returning to training last month, but the winger did not make the trip to the Spanish capital on Tuesday.

Madrid also named their 19-man squad on the eve of the match, with Gareth Bale returning to the fold after sitting out Saturday's 1-0 loss at Levante through illness.

Eden Hazard misses out on selection after sustaining a potentially season-ending ankle injury in the same match, but striker Luka Jovic is back involved.

Zinedine Zidane's men head into the game on a run of one win in their last four matches, while City have won back-to-back games.

Gareth Bale's move from Real Madrid to Jiangsu Suning fell through because Los Blancos asked for a transfer fee at the last moment, the Chinese Super League club's head coach has said.

Wales forward Bale appeared destined to depart the Santiago Bernabeu in July having reportedly agreed a deal that would have seen him earn £1million per week.

But Bale, who joined Madrid in August 2013, remained in the Spanish capital after talks broke down at the last minute.

Jiangsu coach Cosmin Olaroiu said Madrid had originally agreed to allow Bale to leave on a free transfer but changed their mind, making a deal unviable for the Chinese side.

"It was very close," Olaroiu told The National. 

"The club agreed with his agent, his agent was there. We agreed with Madrid and in the last month - I don't know what happened there, they lose some friendly games by a big score - Madrid changed their mind.

"First they said they would release him and we would have to pay his salary, then suddenly they said 'No, you have to pay for the transfer'.

"And paying the transfer and his salary was a little bit over the budget and so we looked for another player.

"But, actually, I know that it was done 90 per cent in the evening, and then in the morning everything changed. But Real Madrid, not us."

Bale has made 17 appearances in all competitions for Zinedine Zidane's men this term, scoring three goals, but was left out of the squad to face Levante on Saturday reportedly due to illness.

The 30-year-old has won LaLiga and Copa del Rey medals with Madrid, as well as four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups.

Zinedine Zidane defended Gareth Bale's performance against Celta Vigo, yet the Wales forward has not been included in Real Madrid's squad for the trip to Levante.

Bale started and played 84 minutes on Sunday, as Madrid were held to a 2-2 home draw by Celta, who equalised late on through Santi Mina.

"I think Bale played a good game and we have to keep thinking that there's a long way to go and we have to think about what we all do on the pitch to improve it," Zidane said in the wake of the draw.

However, Bale will not get the chance to continue in Madrid's XI this week after he was left out of the squad for the clash with Levante.

The 30-year-old has reportedly been struggling with a stomach bug, which meant he was unable to train on Wednesday.

Striker Luka Jovic has also missed out – with the Serbia international reportedly suffering from the same issue – while Rodrygo and Nacho do not feature in the 19-man squad.

Eden Hazard, who made his comeback from injury against Celta, is included.

Madrid have been boosted by the return to non-contact training of Marco Asensio, who has missed the entirety of the season due to a knee ligament injury.

Zinedine Zidane moved to defend Marcelo and Gareth Bale after Real Madrid's "painful" 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo.

Marcelo was a surprise starter ahead of Ferland Mendy for Sunday's contest at Santiago Bernabeu where Santi Mina earned the visitors an 85th-minute equaliser after Toni Kroos' strike and a Sergio Ramos penalty had cancelled out Fedor Smolov's opener.

The Brazil full-back, a mainstay of Madrid's line-up for over a decade, has faced criticism at times this season, particularly over his performances defensively, but head coach Zidane had no issues with Marcelo's showing.

"I don't think he makes us weaker defensively, because he was good at the back, but you always bring out stats," Zidane said.

"I'm happy with everyone for how they play and when they play."

Bale was mainly ineffective having been selected to start in a front three alongside Karim Benzema and the returning Eden Hazard.

Zidane, though, said the focus is on how the team as a collective can improve after they missed the chance to win a sixth straight LaLiga match.

"I think Bale played a good game and we have to keep thinking that there's a long way to go and we have to think about what we all do on the pitch to improve it," Zidane added.

On how he felt after conceding the late equaliser, the Frenchman said: "Painful to be brutally honest. I thought the team gave a very big effort to try to win the game. 

"After taking the lead and five minutes towards the end conceding the draw, it's not very good. 

"But I'm very pleased with my team, it wasn't easy for us. A first half where we conceded a goal after six minutes and then they closed themselves at the back, very defensively solid.

"The gap in the first half, we were trying to cross the ball too much, but in the second half we did it much better."

One positive for Madrid was the return of Belgium forward Hazard, who has been absent since November with an ankle injury.

Zidane was encouraged by what he saw from the former Chelsea star.

"I'm very happy to have him back and with the 70 minutes he played," Zidane said. 

"I think we know the player he is, and after three months out it wouldn't be easy for him to come back in and play a great game, but I'm very happy with his game and to have him back."

Zinedine Zidane again reiterated there is no problem between himself and Gareth Bale after recalling the winger for Real Madrid's 4-1 win at Osasuna.

Madrid extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to six points ahead of Barcelona's trip to Real Betis as they prevailed in a feisty encounter at El Sadar.

Unai Garcia headed the hosts into a 14th-minute lead but Isco volleyed in his first league goal of the campaign and Sergio Ramos edged Madrid in front before the break.

Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic added gloss to the scoreline late on, the former having replaced the recalled Bale 20 minutes from time.

The Wales star passed up a pair of half-chances before having a hand in Isco's equaliser and Zidane was impressed by his efforts without the ball, during what was at times a gruelling contest.

"He is an important player, he has shown it," Zidane told reporters afterwards.

"He has not played the last three games and has made 70 very good minutes defensively.

"Then, the problem is that they want us to have a problem with Gareth, but there is not one.

"There are many players, it’s not easy to manage all that. He’s a very important player, he’s always shown it and he’ll keep playing, like the others."

Asked again about Bale's performance, Zidane added: "He has done well. I am happy for his game, offensively and defensively he has given everything.

"He was a bit short physically at the end, so he has left the field. We know the player he is and that he is going to give a lot from now until the end of the season. Let's count on Gareth."

Jovic is another player who has not always found favour with his boss and the former Eintracht Frankfurt striker's fabulous left-footed finish marked only a second LaLiga goal, and his first since October.

"I'm glad for him, I needed him, he is a pure striker of whom you can say many things," Zidane said.

"He plays well, but if he does not score a goal he is not happy. He has to improve, but I'm glad for his goal. It will come in handy."

Eden Hazard was absent once more, with the Belgium playmaker running out of time to prove his fitness before the Champions League clash with Manchester City at the end of this month.

"It's a thing we do together," Zidane explained when discussing the management of Hazard's recovery from a fractured ankle.

"It wasn't the time today again and we'll see this week. He's going to need this week, it's going to be long. We're going to see him next week, I hope."

Isco's first LaLiga goal of the season helped Real Madrid to a battling 4-1 win at Osasuna on Sunday.

The hosts deservedly hit the front at a bristling El Sadar thanks to Unai Garcia's header, but Isco finished with aplomb in the 33rd minute.

Sergio Ramos' knack for vital goals came up trumps for Zinedine Zidane once more before the interval, and Madrid now lead Barcelona by six points at the summit.

Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic made sure of that state of affairs before Quique Setien takes Barca to face his old employers Real Betis in the day's late kick-off.

Right-back Nacho Vidal fizzed a 20-yard shot narrowly wide inside the first minute to serve notice of Osasuna's intentions before Jose Arnaiz and Ruben Garcia raided down the right-hand side of Madrid's defence to go close.

It meant the 14th-minute opener was on the cards when it arrived – Unai Garcia stooping to head home Ruben Garcia's corner.

Madrid's most immediate route back into the match appeared to be Osasuna keeper Sergio Herrera, who twice darted from his goal and was indebted to last-ditch clearances from shots by Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal.

Herrera was more conventionally placed but had no chance when Isco dispatched a looping ball on the volley after Gareth Bale's attempt was blocked.

Casemiro atoned for his poor marking on Osasuna's goal by heading Luka Modric's corner back across goal for Ramos to make it 2-1.

Unai Garcia got in the way of Benzema's goalbound 49th-minute effort from a Modric cutback, and Osasuna kept scrapping away – Casemiro turning Ruben Garcia's shot behind after Nacho Vidal ransacked Isco.

The playmaker was certainly more at home in the opposition half and a sharp low stop from Herrera kept out an Isco snapshot before Vazquez replaced Bale.

The Spain winger benefitted from Benzema's unselfish 84th-minute pass, while Modric and Federico Valverde combined for Jovic to rifle in his second LaLiga goal – and first since October – in stoppage time.

Inigo Perez rattling Thibaut Courtois crossbar showed Osasuna's spirit remained intact until the last.
 

What does it mean? Pressure on Barca

Madrid might not have been at their best here, but it does not matter. Barcelona's uncertain start to life under Setien will now continue with them eyeing a mounting deficit when they kick-off at Estadio Benito Villamarin. Anything more than three points for the Blaugrana and this weekend will come to appear pivotal in the title battle.

Ramos proves the master of irritation once more

He is certainly not to everyone's taste, but if you're a fan, this was time to enjoy some pure, unadulterated, hook-it-to-my-veins Sergio Ramos. Madrid were lucky to be level when Ramos decided to begin a prolonged argument with any Osasuna player willing to listen. The trap of distraction was set for the corner to come and the unmarked skipper proceeded to mock his opponents by sucking his thumb and blowing kisses in celebration. In a title race that could be scrapped for until the last, Madrid have the ideal man leading the charge.

Lack of sharpness does Bale no favours

Claiming an assist for Isco's equaliser would be ambitious, but Bale needs all he can get at Madrid right now. Granted only a 10th LaLiga start this term, the Wales star volleyed into the side-netting and headed over from Carvajal deliveries before half-time. They were, at best, half-chances but Bale's dwindling standing with Zidane means he now needs something special every time an opportunity comes his way.

What's next?

Madrid host Celta Vigo in seven days' time, when Osasuna travel to Athletic Bilbao.

Gareth Bale was named in Real Madrid's starting line-up for Sunday's LaLiga meeting with Osasuna at El Sadar.

Wales international Bale sat out Madrid's past four games, having initially struggled with an ankle injury sustained in the Copa del Rey clash against Unionistas de Salamanca on January 22.

However, he got the nod from Zinedine Zidane to make just his 10th league start of the season and first in over a month.

Bale's return was one of eight changes to the team that was eliminated from the Copa del Rey quarter-finals by Real Sociedad on Thursday.

Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Karim Benzema were the only players to hang onto their places.

Thibaut Courtois was back in goal, with Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Ferland Mendy joining Ramos in defence.

Luka Modric and Casemiro were brought in for Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, while Zidane picked Bale and Isco to flank Karim Benzema in attack.

Gareth Bale is back in Real Madrid's squad for Sunday's LaLiga trip to Osasuna following Zinedine Zidane's insistence there is no issue between the pair.

Bale, who is enduring an underwhelming season, last featured for Madrid in the Copa del Rey clash with Unionistas de Salamanca on January 22.

The ankle knock he suffered in that encounter was only minor, but after being left out for their next game – a 1-0 win at Real Valladolid – he also failed to get himself back in contention for the next three outings.

Most recently Madrid lost 4-3 at home in a thrilling Copa del Rey quarter-final tussle with Real Sociedad, and despite scoring Los Blancos' third, Rodrygo Goes is one of those to come out of the travelling party.

Eden Hazard continues to miss out as well – the Belgian yet to make his return from an ankle injury he suffered in November, despite making his comeback to training more than two weeks ago.

Also returning are Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal as Madrid look to restore their six-point lead over Barcelona at the summit, who face head coach Quique Setien's former team Real Betis later the same day.

Zinedine Zidane insisted it "couldn't be further from the truth" to suggest there is a problem with Gareth Bale at Real Madrid.

Wales forward Bale has played just 12 LaLiga matches for Madrid this season and was not involved in Thursday's Copa del Rey quarter-final against Real Sociedad.

Spanish media reported Bale left the Santiago Bernabeu long before the final whistle in that match, which ended in a 4-3 defeat for Madrid.

He has barely been involved since the turn of the year, yet Zidane told reporters in a news conference on Saturday they should not "read between the lines".

Bale's situation dominated the media room discussion before Madrid's Sunday trip to face Osasuna.

When asked if he was happy with the way Bale is training, Zidane said: "Yes, and I'm happy with all the players I have here.

"I know the answer you're looking for, but I have 25 players at my disposal and I have to pick a team. There's no issues or underlying problems and I'm sure he's going to keep working as he has been and he's going to be a part of this team."

The question of Bale leaving before the end of the Sociedad match was raised, but again Zidane played it straight, saying: "The most important thing is he wants to be here, wants to work hard, wants to train.

"There are times when he's not named in the matchday squad but I wouldn't read between the lines. I understand everyone has a point of view but he's going to be a player I'll lean on from now until the end."

Bale's agent recently said the former Tottenham star intends to stay at the club at least until the end of his contract in 2022, spurring Zidane to say he has "no issue whatsoever" with that plan.

The 30-year-old almost left Madrid in the close season, when a move to Chinese side Jiangsu Suning was called off.

What might be said in private between Zidane and Bale remains the subject of conjecture.

"We talk regularly, but I'm not going to tell you what I tell my players behind closed doors," Zidane said.

"He hasn't been in the last few squad lists – I have to choose. We know what he can bring to the side – he has to be fit and ready and I want him to be in the best shape to play.

"I have to pick a team, a squad, and the players are battling for a place in the squad and the starting XI. I have to choose the players every three days.

"You might think there's a problem but no, that couldn't be further from the truth."

Premier League clubs are queuing up to sign Jadon Sancho.

But, Borussia Dortmund will not be rushed in parting with the England teenager.

Dortmund are reportedly determined to make the most of a strong Euro 2020 for the 19-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND WON'T RUSH SANCHO SALE

Borussia Dortmund will take their time over selling in-demand star Jadon Sancho amid links to Manchester United and Chelsea, reports 90min.

Sancho is a player in demand, with Premier League giants United and Chelsea interested in luring the 19-year-old back to England.

Bundesliga outfit Dortmund, however, are keen to maximise Sancho's transfer value after Euro 2020.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona captain Lionel Messi wants to stay at Camp Nu despite his public row with sporting director Eric Abidal, according to Sky Sports News. Amid uncertainty over Messi's future with his contract due to expire in 2021, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been linked to Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Inter and United.

- Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is unhappy with Gareth Bale's training, reports Marca. Bale – who was linked with a return to former club Tottenham during the January transfer window – and his intensity at training has reportedly angered Zidane.

- Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose is Barcelona's main target, says Marca. With Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele injured, LaLiga champions Barca are hoping to be granted permission to sign a Spain-based player to fill the void.

- Il Mattino claims United are at the front of the que to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. The defender has also been linked to Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and City.

Juventus are rushing to make a move for United star Paul Pogba, says Tuttosport. United are reportedly resigned to Pogba leaving and former club Juve are keen to bring the Frenchman back to Turin as Madrid also circle.

Eden Hazard must wait to make his Real Madrid comeback after failing to make the matchday squad for the Copa del Rey clash with Real Sociedad, while Gareth Bale is missing once again.

Belgium forward Hazard has been absent since November with an ankle injury and only returned to training last week.

There had been hope he could feature in the derby against Atletico Madrid, which Zinedine Zidane's men won 1-0 on Saturday, but he was not included for that game.

Head coach Zidane was non-committal on his involvement for the quarter-final tie against Sociedad and Hazard was not among a 19-man squad named on Wednesday.

Bale remains conspicuous by his absence after Zidane said his exclusion for the match against Atleti was not due to injury, saying: "He was available. When it came to deciding, I picked others."

Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal are also not among those selected. Reports in Spain suggest Casemiro has been suffering with flu, while Carvajal took a knock against Atleti. 

Nacho Fernandez, Brahim Diaz and Rodrygo Goes – all absent against Atleti – are included against Sociedad.

There was "no chance" of Gareth Bale joining Tottenham in the January transfer window, according to his agent Jonathan Barnett, who does not think his client will ever return to the north London club.

Bale has been a peripheral figure under Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane in recent weeks and was not included in the matchday squad for the weekend derby win over Atletico Madrid.

His omission came a day after the transfer window closed with the Welshman still at the Santiago Bernabeu, quashing talk of a move back to Spurs.

Asked if Jose Mourinho's men were ever an option, Barnett told talkSPORT: "No.

"Gareth still believes there is a future for him at Real Madrid.

"He has two and a half years left on his contract, he has a wife and three children who are very happy and settled. Fortunately, he can pick and choose where he plays.

"And let's be realistic, for most clubs he's out of their league, financially. It's easy for people to say 'give up the money and play somewhere else' but it's not always about money. He's happy in Madrid and his kids have grown up there, his family are settled."

On whether a move back to Spurs may be an option in 2022, Barnett added: "I don't think so, no.

"When his contract is up, he will sit down and decide what he wants to do."

Bale's situation continues to create debate with Madrid fans mystified as to why a player for whom the club paid a then-record £85million in 2013 is sidelined at a time when Eden Hazard remains absent through injury.

Barnett added: "A lot has been said by people that don't know what's going on. You get articles, comments from people who have no idea what they are talking about.

"I've had conversations and we've been told that he's still a very important part of Madrid. 

"The only people who know what's going on are Zinedine Zidane, Gareth and probably the president of Madrid and they're all very happy with the situation."

On the criticism Bale gets, Barnett said: "He doesn't read it, most sports people don't read the press. 

"In Madrid a lot of bad journalism takes place, they're very biased, they write whatever they like.

"The fans have booed Zidane, they've booed [Cristiano] Ronaldo and other great players, but Gareth has given the club a lot. As he doesn't do press, he doesn't give a lot of interviews and he's a quiet person he's become a sitting target for them.

"The British press [are no better]. Gareth is probably, if not the number one, one of the top two or three players to have come out of Britain.

"Instead of building him up, all they look for is the bad things."

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