The bitter saga surrounding Gareth Bale’s future at Real Madrid has taken a new twist — on a golf course.
Speaking earlier this week at the Audi Cup in Munich, Real boss Zinedine Zidane told reporters that Bale, who has consistently been linked with a move away with the club, was left out of the squad for the two-match tournament because “he wasn’t fit.”
But a photo in Spanish publication El Confidencial, which it says was taken during Real’s defeat by Bale’s former club Tottenham on Tuesday, shows the Welshman enjoying a round of golf.
Speaking after his side’s victory over Turkish side Fenerbahce on Wednesday, Zidane said he did not want to interfere in Bale’s personal life.
“I am here, I’m here with my players, so I can’t really say much. I hope that he has trained there,” Zidane told reporters after being asked about the incident.
“I’m not going to stop anyone from doing something, you know? Everyone has their own responsibilities and we will see what he’s been up to in Madrid.
“I’m not getting involved with his personal life. He stayed back to train. I think he has trained. And we will see about everything else.”
The incident is likely to spark further tension between Bale and Zidane, who according to the player’s agent, have no real working relationship.
Speaking to French publication Le Journal du Dimanche last week, Barnett said the falling out between the pair is personal, rather than professional or tactical.
“It’s quite simple, Zidane doesn’t like Gareth,” Barnett said. “There is no relationship between them, there never has been.”
After leaving Bale out of Real’s first preseason game of its US tour on July 21, Zidane told reporters: “We hope he leaves soon. It would be best for everyone.”
In response, Barnett told AFP: “Zidane is a disgrace — he shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid.”
Bale, who has three years remaining on his current deal, had appeared set to complete a move to China last week after reportedly agreeing $1.2 million-a-week deal with Jiangsu Suning.
But that move was called off by Real President Florentino Perez, who has often come to Bale’s aid during his difficult time in the Spanish capital.
Bale, 30, has suffered a series of injuries over the past four years, limiting his appearances for Real. He has made just 79 La Liga starts in the past four seasons.
Yet his contribution, 14 major trophies, 102 goals and 65 assists in 231 matches, remains hugely impressive.
He made 42 appearances last season as Real endured a dire campaign, finishing 19 points behind arch rival and La Liga champion Barcelona and surrendering its Champions League crown at the last-16 stage.
“Real Madrid have made a rod for their own backs,” European football writer James Horncastle told CNN.
“He’s got multiple years left on his contract, he earns very good money there and I think it’s complicated for a club to find an alternative destination for him.
“Someone who can provide a fee, which would allow them to go back into the transfer market and buy again. Someone who could satisfy the player in terms of what he earns.
“It’s a Rubik’s Cube for them to solve. I think from Bale’s point of view, for someone who has achieved everything he has in the game, having won multiple Champions League titles … what is his ambition?
“He has nothing left to prove. Does he feel the need to move elsewhere? I think beyond the relationship between him and the manager, there isn’t any real reason to go.”