Gareth Bale has further risked the wrath of Real Madrid's notoriously vociferous support by acknowledging he gets more excitement playing for Wales than Los Blancos.

Bale, 30, joined Madrid for a then world-record fee reported to be worth €100million in 2013 and enjoyed significant success at the club, winning every competition, including four Champions League titles.

In the most recent of those Champions League successes in 2017-18, Bale scored a vital brace as Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1, but despite his haul of trophies at the club, fans never truly took to the winger, who has also had issues with coach Zinedine Zidane.

He has received particular criticism for his inability to speak Spanish and a perceived commitment to golf ahead of Madrid, with the Spanish media often focusing on the latter.

And Bale can expect further scorn from Madrid fans and the media after freely admitting on international duty that he unequivocally prefers playing for his country, who he is away with despite not playing at club level since suffering an injury in Wales' last get together.

"I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales," Bale told reporters on Friday ahead of facing Azerbaijan.

"I've been with most of the older players since we were in the Under-17s. It's like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. It's normal.

"With Wales, I'm speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. But it doesn't change what I do on the pitch.

"I always give 100 per cent on the pitch wherever I am, that's what I always strive to do."

Despite the vilification he is often forced to put up with in Spain, Bale insists he takes it all in good humour because he believes many of those criticising have no idea what they are talking about.

"I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me," Bale said.

"On one it said triple bogey, and I have never had a triple bogey! At least give me an albatross! It's funny.

"Some of the things I have seen… people don't understand and don't know what they're on about. So, I just find it quite funny."

Bale accepts that it might look curious from Madrid's perspective that he is fit to feature for Wales again after a month out of action domestically, but he insists it is a coincedence.

"I've done my rehab, four weeks training," he said. "Obviously there are two big games and I'm not sure if I'll play the two whole 90 minutes, but I'll do my best to play as much as I can. I fully understand the position I'm in.

"I've done as much as I can in terms of trying to get back as quickly as I can. We've done 11v11 to try and get some match fitness in me.

"If there had been a Real Madrid game this week, I would've been fit and training to play. Maybe to them it doesn't look great, but it's just a coincidence that the national team comes around this week.

"Everyone knows how passionate I am about Wales. We always look to not just qualify for one, we want to qualify for multiple tournaments.

"It's important not just for the here and now, but for the future of Welsh football. It will inspire kids again and hopefully make more kids play football and make our national team better for the future."

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane hopes to have Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez fit and available after the international break.

Muscle problems will keep both players out of Saturday's LaLiga game against Eibar despite them being called up to their respective national teams.

Wales winger Bale has not played a minute since a Euro 2020 qualifier close to a month ago, while midfielder James has missed Madrid's past three matches.

The pair have started individual fitness programmes but will not be considered for selection until they are able to complete full training sessions alongside the rest of the first team.

"They haven't been fit enough to play," Zidane said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"If they're going to go [away on international duty], they're going to go. They've got five or six days to see if they're fit enough to play for their country. They're not fit enough to play on Saturday.

"They haven't trained with the team. They've been training a little but not at the same pace as their team-mates. If players aren't training with their team-mates they can't play.

"They're not injured right now."

Bale's injury occurred in the same international fixture that left Croatia midfielder Luka Modric with bruising to his right quadriceps.

The 34-year-old subsequently sat out two club games, leaving Zidane wary of a repeat as his squad prepares to disassemble.

"Hopefully nothing happens, but it could. It's true in the last call-ups the players got injured," he said.

"Hopefully the players get away with the national teams, they play, and there are no injuries, and everyone comes back fit and available."

Amid the probe over why Bale and James have been absent, Zidane was asked to clarify his recent claim that Kylian Mbappe harbours a "dream" of playing for Madrid.

The Los Blancos boss said that he was simply repeating the Paris Saint-Germain star's own acknowledged ambition.

The comment riled PSG sporting director Leonardo, who called for an end to transfer speculation surrounding Mbappe.

Zidane said: "He's within his rights to have his opinion and when I get asked a question I will also say what I believe.

"All I said was what [the player] said, that Mbappe's dream is to one day wear the Real Madrid shirt. There's not really much to it to be honest."

Zinedine Zidane wants Gareth Bale to remain a Real Madrid player for at least the rest of the campaign.

Bale was heavily linked with a move to Jiangsu Suning during the close season but the deal fell through and he remained at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Reports this week suggested Madrid will offer Manchester City £70million (€81m) and the 30-year-old in exchange for Raheem Sterling.

However, Zidane has no doubt Bale has an important role to play for Madrid beyond the January transfer window.

"I want Gareth to stay here until the end of the season," Zidane told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League home game against Galatasaray.

"People keep saying that I want him to leave in January, it's nonsense. Our fans have to think positively, as the player wants to be with us.

"He has returned here and wants to recover, but he simply hasn't recovered yet."

Bale has not featured for Madrid for a month, having sustained an injury during Wales' 1-1 draw with Croatia on October 13.

Despite that fact, Bale has been named in the Wales squad for crunch Euro 2020 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Hungary, with Ryan Giggs stating the winger had assured him he would arrive ready to play.

"He's not training normally, so we'll see on a day-to-day basis. His country has a right to pick him, it's a FIFA date so we can't do anything about that. But what the player wants is to be fit and ready," said Zidane.

"He's been back training in the last week and we'll see if he's ready to play for his national team, but the shame for us at the moment is he's not ready to play for us."

Zidane denied he has strained relationship with Bale, adding: "We say, 'Good morning' to each other every day.

"I love all my players. We can't all have the same close relationship but I've never had any problem with Gareth, even when there was talk of him leaving. I'm happy with him.

"You [the media] need to stop always saying the same thing or asking me about him leaving matches early, because I used to do the same.

"The important thing is that he was with the team before the match and at half-time to support them.

"You look for things that aren't there. He wants to see the team win, I have no doubts about that."

Gareth Bale has been included in the Wales squad for their final two Euro 2020 qualifiers despite still being out of action for Real Madrid.

The 30-year-old winger continues to train alone in the Spanish capital but Ryan Giggs is preparing to gamble on his fitness for this month's make-or-break games against Azerbaijan and Hungary.

Bale has not played a minute for Madrid since limping through the final stages of Wales' 1-1 draw against Croatia on October 13.

Giggs said the suspected calf problem appeared to be cramp but Madrid have not confirmed the exact nature of the issue.

Wales are likely to need a maximum six points to have any chance of pipping Hungary, their opponents in Cardiff on November 19, to the second qualifying spot in Group E.

Up first is a trip to Baku to face bottom-placed Azerbaijan on November 16.

Aaron Ramsey could make his first appearance of the qualification campaign in that match after recently overcoming a thigh injury.

The midfielder appeared off the bench in a 1-0 win for Juventus over Torino on Saturday.

 

Wales squad in full:

Adam Davies, Wayne Hennessy, Danny Ward; Ben Davies, Chris Gunter, Tom Lockyer, Chris Mepham, James Lawrence, Regan Poole, Connor Roberts, Neil Taylor, Ashley Williams; Joe Allen, Ethan Ampadu, Dylan Levitt, Joe Morrell, Aaron Ramsey, Matthew Smith, Will Vaulks; Gareth Bale, Daniel James, Tom Lawrence, Rabbi Matondo, Kieffer Moore, Tyler Roberts, Sam Vokes, Harry Wilson.

 

Raheem Sterling dreams of playing abroad and could be about to get his wish.

Real Madrid reportedly want to sign the Manchester City star after succeeding in their attempts to lure Eden Hazard from Chelsea.

To make the deal happen, the Spanish giants are ready to send Gareth Bale back to the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – SANTIAGO BERNABEU CALLING FOR STERLING

China continues to loom as the likeliest escape route for Gareth Bale, but Real Madrid might just have a different destination in mind.

According to Sky Sports, Madrid are preparing to offer the Wales winger plus £70million in a bid to prise Raheem Sterling from Manchester City.

Whether the Premier League champions have any interest in 30-year-old Bale is another matter, while the long-term contract extension Sterling signed last November gives them a strong bargaining position.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh speculation linking Kylian Mbappe to Zinedine Zidane's Madrid will prompt Paris Saint-Germain to offer the France forward an enticing new deal worth around €40million per season, Le Parisien reports. Mbappe has just over two years left on his current contract.

PSG are not just busy attempting to tie down their own players. De Telegraaf claims the Ligue 1 champions are one of three clubs expressing interest in Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana. Tottenham and Manchester United have also reportedly made contact with the 23-year-old's agent.

- Chelsea have identified several big-name January targets if their transfer ban is lifted at an appeal hearing later this month. Borussia Dortmund teenager Jadon Sancho, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Lyon striker Moussa Dembele are the primary targets according to The Telegraph, which also lists Ben Chilwell and Nathan Ake among the names interesting Frank Lampard.

- Rade Krunic, one of AC Milan's better performers in the weekend loss to Lazio, will not be allowed to leave the club on loan, despite Bosnia and Herzegovina boss Robert Prosinecki advising him to seek more playing time. Calciomercato say the recent Rossoneri signing is part of Stefano Pioli's plans and will be staying put at San Siro.

The writing has long been on the wall for Gareth Bale.

Zinedine Zidane wanted him gone from Real Madrid before the previous transfer window closed, but a move did not materialise.

But as the January window approaches, Bale is reportedly ready to leave.

 

TOP STORY – GARETH WANTS TO BALE

Gareth Bale wants to leave Real Madrid in January amid links to the Chinese Super League, according to Cadena Ser.

Bale was poised to make a shock switch to China after being told to move on by Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, though the Welshman remained at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Bale is reportedly desperate for a January exit and wants Madrid to listen to offers from the CSL.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Calciomercato, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has offered himself to former club Juventus. Bologna have confirmed their interest in the LA Galaxy striker, whose contract is set to expire. A-League team Perth Glory want to bring the 38-year-old to Australia. Ibrahimovic spent two years at Juventus, however, the Serie A champions are reportedly not prepared to bring back the veteran as they look to trim their squad in January.

Roma are close to reaching an agreement with Manchester United for on-loan defender Chris Smalling. Calciomercato reports the Serie A side are preparing to present a €17million (£14.6m) offer for the Englishman.

William Saliba is yet to play a match for Arsenal but he could already be on the move. Saliba signed for the Gunners in July before he was immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 season. However, Defensa Central claims Real Madrid are eyeing the 18-year-old French defender. Monaco's Benoit Badiashile and Boubacar Kamara of Marseille are also on the list to potentially replace Raphael Varane.

- The Telegraph says Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana is a target for clubs in the Chinese Super League and MLS. Lallana is out of contract at the end of the season.

Ronald Koeman dominates the frontpage of Monday's SPORT newspaper. The Netherlands boss is heavily linked to Barcelona having revealed a release clause in his contract, and amid growing pressure on head coach Ernesto Valverde .

- Former Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri and ex-Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta are among the candidates to replace Unai Emery should the Gunners sack the Spaniard, according to the Mirror. Allegri has also been linked to Bayern Munich and Manchester United, while Arteta is serving as Pep Guardiola's Manchester City assistant. Jose Mourinho has also reportedly emerged as an option.

Zinedine Zidane insists he is not obliged to recall Gareth Bale to the Real Madrid team as soon as possible in order to convince him to stay at the club.

The Wales star's future has again come into doubt after he travelled to London this week reportedly to meet with his agent, Jonathan Barnett.

Speaking after the 5-0 win over Leganes on Wednesday, Zidane stressed he still has a good working relationship with Bale, who has not played for Madrid since October 5 after suffering a knock on international duty.

Zidane says the forward is now back training with the Madrid squad but does not agree he must rush Bale back into action in order to show the player that he has a future at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"The subject is in the past. He is here and he's on the pitch, bit by bit, training," Zidane told reporters on Friday ahead of the LaLiga clash with Real Betis.

"We're with him in order for him to get back in the team. Nothing more.

"I don't have to do anything. I don't have to convince him about anything because he's here. He's training, he's still not available, but he's here at Real Madrid."

While Bale's future remains unclear, Madrid continue to be linked with a possible move for Paul Pogba, who was tipped to move to the Spanish capital in the previous transfer window.

With the France midfielder having stayed at United while Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro have all had injuries this season, Federico Valverde has taken his opportunity to impress at the heart of Zidane's side.

However, the Madrid boss does not consider Valverde to be a player in exactly the same mould as Pogba.

"I don't look at him like that. He's a very young player, who has a lot of future and present. He's doing well," Zidane said.

"I'm not surprised by him or anyone else, either. He's an important player in the squad. There are 25 first-team players and that's that."

The 5-0 win over Leganes was another match in which Eden Hazard was unable to add to his solitary Madrid goal since his move from Chelsea before the start of the season.

But Zidane has dismissed the notion that the Belgium star is "shy" when it comes to going for goal.

"I don't think he's shy," Zidane said. "He sees things many others don't see, so sometimes he tries the pass rather than the shot.

"Everyone wants to see Hazard scoring goals. He looks better every day."

Luka Modric insists friend and team-mate Gareth Bale fits in well at Real Madrid and enjoys being at the club.

Rumours linking the Wales international with a move to the Chinese Super League have resurfaced as the January transfer window draws nearer.

He almost left for Jiangsu Suning during the close season, only for Madrid to reportedly cancel the deal at the last minute.

Zinedine Zidane tried to force him out amid suggestions Bale has failed to embrace Spanish culture but, speaking ahead of Wednesday's LaLiga game against Leganes, the head coach claimed his winger is still happy at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Star midfielder Modric, who swapped Tottenham for Madrid a year before Bale, holds the same view.

"Gareth and I are very similar. We are shy and sometimes we don't talk much," Modric told Club del Deportista.

"Gareth speaks and understands Spanish, and there is a good atmosphere and he gets along very well with his team-mates and is delighted to enjoy Madrid and the best club in the world.

"Of course, everyone enjoys their own way and you have to respect their way of being. He is exemplary with his behaviour. I get along very well with him."

Fresh speculation surrounding Bale's future arose following his meeting with agent Jonathan Barnett in London on Monday.

Zidane said the trip was "personal reasons" and that Madrid knew of his plans.

Approached for comment by a Spanish broadcaster, Barnett added that Bale is completely content at the club.

"Gareth Bale is delighted to play for Real Madrid," he told Deportes Cuatro.

Bale, 30, has not featured for Los Blancos since suffering an injury – initially suspected to be cramp – while playing for Wales against Modric's Croatia on October 13.

Former Real Madrid forward Predrag Mijatovic has urged the Spanish giants to move Gareth Bale on if the player wants to go, even if it means missing out on a transfer fee.

The Wales star moved to Spain from Tottenham in 2013 for a reported fee of €91million and has been a key player in the club's success ever since.

But Bale's future was the subject of much discussion during the previous transfer window, with the 30-year-old said to be keen on a move elsewhere.

The attacker's reported wage packet of £350,000 per week made it tough for clubs to do a deal, though, and Bale remained in Madrid, where he has made just seven starts in all competitions this season.

Zinedine Zidane’s squad sit sixth in La Liga having made an underwhelming start to the campaign, including picking up just one win from their opening three Champions League fixtures.

"Madrid wanted to sell him over the summer but they couldn't find a solution," Mijatovic said while appearing on the show El Larguero on Cadena SER.

"A decision needs to be made ... he has three years left on his contract and that complicates things.

"In terms of numbers, I think Bale has already been profitable. If a player of this salary is not motivated, it is better to leave for free and take the salary off.

"It may be worth it to transfer him, even if it is not the money you might think you would get for him. If it is better to let it go free than to keep it? Without any doubt, I believe."

While Mijatovic did say that Bale "loves living here [Spain]", he added that the public perception of the player is not great.

"He seems quite a particular person, which might mean he comes across as being a bit strange," he said.

"But to have someone like that at the club, who they say isn't integrated and has other, more important worries than his own team and his club ... [the perception is] the first thing he thinks about is Wales, then golf and after that, Real Madrid.

"I haven't spoken to him - but that's how he comes across."

Mijatovic scored 44 goals in 117 appearances for Madrid. He netted the only goal of the 1998 UEFA Champions League final, securing victory over Juventus in Amsterdam.

Zinedine Zidane has insisted Gareth Bale is happy at Real Madrid and had the club's permission to visit London on Monday.

Wales international Bale travelled to the English capital two days out from his club's LaLiga game against Leganes, which he will miss through injury.

The former Tottenham winger reportedly used the trip to meet with his agent, Jonathan Barnett, as rumours surrounding his future started to re-circulate.

Bale almost left Madrid for China in the close season amid suggestions of a strained relationship with Zidane, but the Frenchman claimed the pair are on good terms.

"It's good to be asked this because a lot of things have been said," Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday.

"I have to say we have a good relationship. He's here with us, he trains well and works well when he's available. He's not available at the moment because he's got an injury, that's all.

"The problem is, there is a lot of talk about lots of different things. The important thing is that he's ready when he's 100 per cent.

"He's a good player, you know what kind of player he is. At the moment he's not available. You're all trying to create something that isn't there in our relationship.

"He had permission yesterday to go [to London]. It was a personal issue and he went. There's nothing else to say. He went also because he's not available to play.

"I don't think he ever talks about leaving. When he's available he trains and plays. He's played a number of games."

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been mentioned as possible destinations for Bale, along with Shanghai Shenhua.

Their Chinese Super League rivals, Jiangsu Suning, were believed to be in pole position before the transfer fell through in July.

"That was the situation at the time and at the end of the day he stayed. That was better for everyone," Zidane said.

"It doesn't help what's said about him and the club. He's an important player in this squad. It's important for us that he plays and does well.

"The same thing [transfer speculation] will happen in January. If he says he's going to stay, there will be more talk about the summer window. He's happy here."

The Gareth Bale transfer saga continues to roll on as he remains frozen out at Spanish giants Real Madrid with seemingly no way back.

The 30-year-old was linked with a move to China in the summer but the move did not materialise and Bale has since continued to find himself out of favour with Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

All is not lost for Bale though with three Premier League clubs battling for the Welshman's signature in January, as he builds towards a possible Euro 2020 campaign with Wales next June.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE TRIO KEEN TO SIGN BALE IN JANUARY

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have all been linked with a January swoop for Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, according to AS.

The three Premier League giants are seeking solutions to solve inconsistent starts to their respective seasons and believe the Welshman could provide a timely boost leading into 2020.

Bale is seen as the perfect fit for a return to Premier League football, having maintained his good reputation from time spent with Southampton and Spurs, but it remains to be seen whether Madrid's asking price or the player's wage demands will be met. 

Marca believe Bale could revisit a potential move to China, however, with the player's agent believed to be in talks with Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter Milan are hopeful of signing Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen on a free transfer this summer, according to The Guardian.

- Sky Italia say Inter are also considering a move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, which would see the Serbian reunite with Antonio Conte.

- Staying in Serie A and Corriere dello Sport claim Roma have rejected the opportunity to sign former Sunderland flop Jack Rodwell on a free transfer.

- Corriere dello Sport also believe Napoli have pulled the plug on a potential move for Salzburg star Erling Braut Haaland as they expect the 19-year-old to join Manchester United in January.

- Manchester City will replace Leroy Sane with Real Sociedad playmaker Mikel Oyarzabal should the Germany winger get his move to Bayern Munich, according to Sky Sports.

- Turkish news outlet Takvim claim Besiktas are keen to cancel their two-year loan agreement with Liverpool for goalkeeper Loris Karius.

Take your pick: Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester City?

Napoli star Fabian Ruiz is in demand following his exploits in Serie A since leaving Real Betis in 2018.

LaLiga giants Madrid are keen to bring Spanish midfielder Fabian to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEPPING UP FABIAN INTEREST

Real Madrid are prepared to offer €20million and Isco for Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, according to Mundo Deportivo.

In-demand Napoli star Fabian is wanted by Madrid, LaLiga champions Barcelona and Premier League holders Manchester City.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and Madrid are determined to bring the Spain international to the Santiago Bernabeu, though Napoli are reportedly uninterested in an exchange and wanted a bigger transfer fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- According the Mirror, Manchester United have been given the green light for a £125million double swoop to sign Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz and Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller. Havertz is wanted by Europe's elite, while Muller is searching for more game time.

United have been put off signing Real Madrid's Gareth Bale due to his injury record, reports the Daily Mail. Bale's name continues to be mentioned amid Madrid's interest in United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Inter are ready to make January bids for Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal and Manchester United's Nemanja Matic, according to Corriere della Sera. Sport also claims Inter are in talks with Barca for Ivan Rakitic.

- AS claims Barcelona want Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman to replace head coach Ernesto Valverde, who is out of contract at season's end. PSV's Mark van Bommel is also on the list of alternatives.

Manchester City are set to offer Wayne Rooney's son Kai the chance to join their academy, says the Mirror. Kai joined City in 2016 during Wayne's time at Premier League rivals Manchester United.

- Soccer Link reports Lyon are open to selling Manchester United target and star striker Moussa Dembele.

Kylian Mbappe is long admired by Real Madrid and they are again intent on adding the 20-year-old to their front line, it seems.

Mbappe was linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu before opting to stay in Ligue 1 when joining Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco in the 2017-18 season.

The Spanish giants have not forgotten about the France international, though, and are planning to move two superstars on in order to get their man, according to reports.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE BACK ON MADRID'S RADAR WITH BALE AND JAMES TO MAKE WAY

Real Madrid were unable to land Kylian Mbappe a couple of seasons ago, but they are keen to sign him over the next few transfer windows, according to Calciomercato.

Mbappe is one of world football's star names and would fit into the old Galactico culture at Madrid, although Los Blancos would need to offload two star names in order to raise finances and complete a deal with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

One of those names is Gareth Bale, who is still reportedly unhappy at Madrid, while Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez could also move on having struggled at times to find form this season following a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

It remains to be seen whether any club is willing to pay the substantial transfer fee and wages required to secure either of the duo, but if they do make way then it could pave the way for Mbappe's move.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying in Madrid and ElDesmarque believe Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could be heading to Real Madrid in exchange for Gareth Bale and €90million.

- Bleacher Report claim Mesut Ozil's advisors are trying to convince the Arsenal playmaker to make a switch to MLS.

- Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is the number one transfer target for Manchester City, according to Calciomercato.

- Manchester Evening News are reporting City may also take up their option to buy back Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa.

- Frank Lampard is hopefully of securing Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham to new contracts at Chelsea, Goal have said.

- Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez is a January transfer target for Bayern Munich, say Spox.

- Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez's contract talks with Inter have been put on ice as Barcelona and United circle for the 22-year-old's signature, according to Calciomercato.

Ryan Giggs described Lionel Messi as a "once in a lifetime player" after being asked for his verdict on the eternal debate over who is better between the Barcelona forward and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The superstar duo dominated the Ballon d'Or voting for more than a decade, winning it five times apiece before Luka Modric broke their stranglehold in 2018.

Messi has spent his entire senior career with Barcelona while Ronaldo has starred for Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus.

Giggs played alongside Ronaldo at Old Trafford and said he will always back his former team-mate but could not hide away from the fact a player of Messi's quality is a one-off.

"Obviously I lean towards Ronaldo a little bit because I played with him and saw him develop as a player," he told DAZN. "But Messi is a genius, a once-in-a-lifetime player. It's as simple as that."

Giggs is now in charge of the Wales senior side, where he coaches Ronaldo's ex-team mate Gareth Bale, who is in his seventh season at Madrid. 

Bale came close to leaving the Santiago Bernabeu in the last transfer window, but a move to China collapsed and he has been used seven times in all competitions this season.

Giggs found Bale's situation in the Spanish capital unusual given what he has achieved at the club.

"It's strange. From the outside, it looks strange," he said. "For the quality he possesses and what he's won there: four Champions Leagues.

"I'm his coach for Wales, he's recently been my captain, and is a good professional. He's a player that can turn a game on its head like he did against Liverpool for Madrid."

Zinedine Zidane left Gareth Bale and Luka Modric out of his Real Madrid squad for their Champions League trip to Galatasaray after the pair suffered injuries while on international duty.

After scoring in Wales' 1-1 draw with Croatia in Cardiff, Bale left the field limping and was later reported to be suffering from cramp, while Modric had to be substituted having sustained bruising to his right quadriceps.

The pair are joined by out-of-favour striker Mariano Diaz and calf injury victim Lucas Vazquez in missing the trip to Istanbul for a game in which Madrid badly need a win to revive their hopes of qualifying from Group A.

Los Blancos lost their opening group game 3-0 at Paris Saint-Germain and were held to a 2-2 draw by Club Brugge at Santiago Bernabeu, leaving them bottom of the group.

Tuesday's game provides Zidane's men with a chance to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat to Mallorca in LaLiga on Saturday and the Madrid coach welcomes Toni Kroos, Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal back into his squad.

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