NewslettersSign inAPP
spainSPAINchileCHILEcolombiaCOLOMBIAusaUSAmexicoMEXICOlatin usaLATIN USAamericaAMERICA

Champions League final: Bale gives Zidane a way out


At Real Madrid's open media day, the hot topic was, inevitably, whether Isco or Gareth Bale will get the nod in the Champions League final. Zinedine Zidane deflected the question with a rhetorical pirouette almost as smooth as those he used to do with ball at feet. Isco and Bale are compatible, he said; they can play together. He even argued that they have done so as many as 16 times. Well, of course they're compatible. Only Keylor Navas and Kiko Casilla aren't. With the rest, all manner of combinations are possible, and from time to time do occur. Dani Carvajal and Danilo can play together, for example: if there's no left-back available, one goes on the right and the other on the left. But the issue here is what happens when everyone is ready and raring to go ahead of a final.

Bale admits he isn't 100% fit ahead of Champions League final

Isco sidestepped the question, while Bale said he felt both good and then not so good, depending on which point of the day it was and to whom he was talking. At some juncture he conceded that he's not at 100%, which is something that's absolutely natural. Nobody is in tip-top nick after several games without a run-out. He even ventured that if he did start, he wouldn't be able to manage the full 90 minutes. And he said he's not putting any pressure on Zidane to pick him against Juventus. His words did a favour to his coach, who has only once seriously shown himself up in his time in charge: when he fielded an unfit Bale against Barcelona. He lasted 39 minutes, did very little, limped off injured, and Real lost the match.

Bale speaks to the press at Real Madrid's pre-Champions League final media day on Tuesday.
Full screen
Bale speaks to the press at Real Madrid's pre-Champions League final media day on Tuesday.Denis DoyleGetty Images

The match might be in Bale's hometown, but it's Isco time

Bale hasn't appeared since then, while Isco has put together a run of superb performances. He has come to the fore for Los Blancos during the run-in, and no-one would be able to understand it if his starting spot went to Bale, no matter how much he's one of club chief Florentino Pérez's favourites. Zidane indulged that against Barça. Now it has to be Isco's turn, even if Cardiff is Bale's hometown; and it seems even the Welshman, who is after all a very decent lad, admits as much. Whether or not the game allows for, or even demands, Bale's introduction at some point - we'll that's another matter. What's surprising is that, given how much of a no-brainer it appears, Zidane finds it so hard to just come out with it. It's almost been a case of Bale announcing it for him.