Clubs, English Premier League, Gareth Bale, Real Madrid, Spanish Primera División, Story, Tottenham Hotspur, Transfers

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Gareth Bale will not make a shock return to Tottenham, sources have told ESPN, while Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has said he is “counting on” the forward between now and the end of the season.

“Gareth is with us,” Zidane said in a news conference on Friday ahead of the derby with Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Saturday. “I’m counting on him. I’m not contemplating that possibility.”

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Bale picked up an ankle injury in a cup game on Jan. 22 — when he scored his first club goal since September — and has missed Real Madrid’s last two matches, against Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza.

He took part in full training with his teammates at the club’s Valdebebas training base on Friday morning and is available for the Madrid derby.

“I won’t tell you who will play tomorrow,” Zidane added when asked if Bale would be involved. “The players have to be ready. After training today, we’ll see the squad.”

The Madrid coach refused to rule out a return for Eden Hazard, who has been absent since November with a microfracture in his ankle and was not expected to be ready in time for the derby.

“We’ll see. He has been training with us bit-by-bit all week,” Zidane said. “There’s a possibility, but we’ll never take any risks.”

Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett replied “rubbish” when asked about the rumours regarding the Welshman and also said earlier this month that Bale was “going nowhere” in January and a summer move was “very unlikely”.

Bale has a contract at Real Madrid until 2022.

In December, Barnett admitted Bale is “not ecstatic” at the club, where he has endured a turbulent, injury-hit season including being booed by the Bernabeu crowd after his “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order” flag celebration.

Zidane also praised Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who has been under huge pressure after their defeat in the Spanish Supercopa final and being knocked out of the Copa del Rey.

“Everyone knows the situation. I know what Simeone is as a coach, which is one of the best,” Zidane said. “I said [Pep] Guardiola was the best recently, and Simeone is one of the best too. He’s proved it, and what I think hasn’t changed.”

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