Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he hopes none of his players feel like reserves amid speculation that Isco and Gareth Bale could both again be left out of the XI for Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Juventus.
After a hat trick in Spain’s 6-1 friendly win over Argentina last week, Isco said he feels undervalued at Madrid, having started just six of the last 16 La Liga games and having been benched for the Champions League round-of-16 second leg at Paris Saint-Germain last month.
He also said that playing for his country “gave him life” and that he is enjoying the confidence of national coach Julen Lopetegui, leading to talk of a £75 million move to longtime suitors Manchester City this summer.
But Zidane said at a pregame news conference in Turin that he would continue to use his big squad as he felt best, pointing out the international and club calendars were very different.
“I hope the players do not think that way,” Zidane said. “For me, there are no reserves. I have 25 very good players and will use them all. There are moments when some play more. Maybe with the national team it is different for Isco as they have eight games — and here there are 60 [and] we play every three days. That is my way of coaching.”
Bale has 11 goals in 15 La Liga games this season, with nine since Jan. 1, but he was a substitute for both Champions League games against PSG as wingers Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio were favoured by Zidane. That has led to speculation about Bale, the former Tottenham Hotspur player, returning to the Premier League.
Madrid midfielder Luka Modric said at the news conference that injuries had not helped Bale’s case this term.
“It’s been a tough season for [Bale], with injuries, but of late he’s feeling good and is on a good goalscoring run,” Modric said. “He’s got great quality and his contribution is very important for us, with his pace and ability to get in behind.”
The Croatia international would not be drawn on who he would prefer to see in the XI against Juventus.
“We’ve shown so far this season and in recent years that regardless of who plays, we’re able to put in very good performances,” Modric said. “I don’t mind whether it’s Bale or Isco who plays, because they are both key players with a great deal to offer. Isco is a great player, but the coach is always the one who decides.”