Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale wants to prove himself under Julen Lopetegui – source

The FC crew react to Real Madrid’s appointment of Julen Lopetegui as manager, questioning the timing as he prepares to lead Spain at the World Cup.
The ESPN FC crew assess the timing of Real Madrid’s first press conference unveiling new coach Julen Lopetegui, after his sacking.
An emotional Julen Lopetegui discusses the pain of his sacking as Spain manager and the pride he has in accepting the Real Madrid job.
ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti discusses the tricky situation Julen Lopetegui finds himself in as he coaches Spain before taking over at Real Madrid.

Gareth Bale is happy at Real Madrid and keen to work under new head coach Julen Lopetegui rather than seek a move back to the Premier League, a source has told ESPN FC.

Bale, who scored twice after coming on as a substitute in the Champions League final last month, had put his future with Madrid in doubt by revealing he would seek assurances over his role in the team.

Manchester United are long-term admirers and remain interested in a move for the former Tottenham player. They will be at the front of any queue this summer should Madrid sanction his sale.

But following the resignation of coach Zinedine Zidane in the wake of the club’s third successive Champions League triumph, a source close to Bale has told ESPN FC that he is ready to grasp the opportunity of proving himself to Lopetegui, who was unveiled by Madrid on Thursday after his dismissal as Spain coach on Wednesday.

While Bale remains determined to play more often for Madrid after spending much of last season under Zidane on the substitutes’ bench, his first preference is to stay rather than move elsewhere.

He is under contract at Real until the end of the 2021-22 season, having signed a six-year deal in October 2016, and is confident that he can still contribute in the biggest games for the club, having scored key goals against Barcelona and Liverpool in the final weeks of last season.

United will push hard to sign Bale if Madrid and Lopetegui decide to cash in on the player, with the Old Trafford outfit aware that Paris Saint-Germain’s commitment to completing the permanent £166m signing Kylian Mbappe from Monaco rules them out of the running.

Bayern Munich have also distanced themselves from a move for Bale, leaving the path clear for United should Bale become available.

But while he remains open to a move back to the Premier League, Bale is in no rush to leave Madrid and sees Lopetegui’s arrival as an opportunity re-establish himself in their first-team.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_