(Reuters) - Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale has the qualities to fill the void left by his fellow forward Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus, the Spanish side’s new manager Julen Lopetegui has said.
Bale struggled to hold on to his place in the starting XI under previous manager Zinedine Zidane and said after his match-winning display in last season’s Champions League final against Liverpool that he craved regular first team action.
Speaking ahead of his team’s pre-season encounter against Manchester United in Miami on Tuesday, Lopetegui said the 29-year-old Welshman’s immediate future was with the Spanish giants.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the main players in the recent history of Real Madrid. He expressed a desire to leave and we allowed him to. Gareth Bale is a magnificent player, with so many qualities. He can help fill the void,” Lopetegui said.
Ronaldo joined Italian champions Juventus on a four-year contract for 100 million euros ($117.37 million) earlier this month, signalling the end of nine years in Madrid.
Lopetegui was keen to stress that the Portuguese’s departure represented a “fantastic opportunity” for Bale, who has been linked by Spanish media with a move away from the club, to stay and show his talent.
“I don’t walk to talk about hypothetical situations,” Lopetegui said, dismissing reports of Bale’s possible return to the Premier League with United and his former team Tottenham Hotspur possible destinations.
“If this is the squad I have at start of season I’ll be a happy man... he (Bale) is with the team. He’s happy and aligned with our goals. It is the start of an exciting path for us.”
Real begin their season with a UEFA Super Cup clash against Europa League winners and city rivals Atletico Madrid on Aug. 15. They face Getafe in their opening La Liga match four days later.
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Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge