A smiling Zinedine Zidane dismissed questions about Paul Pogba signing for Real Madrid and said he would be considering Gareth Bale for selection this season as he gave his last press conference before the start of the season.
Asked about if he still wanted the club to sign Pogba, Zidane said: ‘
I am focused just on tomorrow’s game and I believe I have the best players here.’
When he was later asked about Pogba’s brother Mathias’ comments on late-night Spanish TV that his brother was the player Real Madrid lacked he said:
‘Paul is a Manchester United player and we have to respect them. I am focused on the players I have here.’
When he was asked about his summer fall-out with Gareth Bale – excluding him, saying he was leaving, and then picking him again he appeared resigned to the Welshman staying in his squad.
He said: ‘It seemed he was going and he is still here so I’m going to count on him. He’s an important player. And I hope all the players make it difficult in terms of me picking the team.’
That seemed to indicate that Bale would need to convince the coach he should start matches but it was a far cry from early pre-season surly responses to all questions about the player.
There are just over two weeks left of the transfer window but Zidane spoke like a coach who had accepted the squad he has now will be the one he takes at least until January.
Asked about Neymar he said:
‘Neymar is not a Madrid player and I am concerned with the players here.’
It would not have been difficult for him to say that Neymar was a great player but belonged to someone else, instead it was a cold short sharp response.
He did, however, appear up-beat about Madrid’s chances this season.
‘We want it to start,’ he said of the new campaign. ‘We are ready. I have total optimism. I want to win but I know this is Madrid and that we have to play well too.
‘This is the best league in the world. This is just beginning and we need the supporters behind us.’
It was a conciliatory message after several months of public pushing for changes to be made to his squad. He even seemed resigned to James Rodriguez staying.
When asked about the Colombian he said:
‘I am happy to have him. He is on form.
‘I am going to use everyone. They are happy to be here and I am happy to have them.’