Mourinho and Varane
Mourinho hailed Varane as the best young defender in the gameGetty

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane hopes Raphael Varane will stay at the Santiago Bernabeu for the long term after recent reports in England claimed Jose Mourinho wants the French centre-back at Old Trafford if he gets the Manchester United job. The boss, meanwhile, has refused to set a deadline for Gareth Bale's return to action after the former Tottenham Hotspur star suffered a setback in his recovery.

Varane was heavily linked with a move to Chelsea during Mourinho's tenure at the west London club after the Portuguese boss signed him for Real Madrid in the summer of 2011. He handed him his debut and a major role in the line-up, ahead of Sergio Ramos and Pepe despite him being a teenager at the time. Mourinho has since failed to diminish the speculation in recent years, openly praising Varane while naming him as the best young centre-back in the world.

The Sun claimed earlier in February that the Portuguese boss has identified the Frenchman as his first signing for Manchester United if he takes over from Louis van Gaal, as has been widely reported.

Zidane is well aware about those rumours but hopes the 22-year-old will stay – with the current Real Madrid manager having also played a big role in the defender's decision to move to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011 after he turned down another offer to move to Old Trafford.

"We have seen [in the press] that Mourinho wants him. It is normal. He knew him perfectly because he brought him to Real Madrid," the manager said in a press conference ahead of the game against Athletic Bilbao.

"I spoke to Mourinho when he was here [to advise him about his signing] but he made the decision to sign him. What I can say us that he is a Real Madrid player and I want him to stay with us all his life because he's the future of Real Madrid."

Meanwhile, recent reports in Spain claimed Bale will miss Real Madrid's Champions League game against Roma after suffering a setback in his recovery from a calf injury. The 26-year-old suffered the injury during 5-1 win over Sporting Gijon on 17 January and was expected to return to action for the La Liga clash against Athletic Bilbao.

But speaking ahead of the game against the Basque side, Zidane said: "When a player is injured it is always worrying, but no more than normal. Every day he is better. It's something that has been going on for a bit more time for him but we have to be calm about it.

"We want him at 100% and I want all the players at 100%. If he's uncomfortable and it hurts him, it's normal that he could have a setback. He's a very important player for us and we're not going to take any risks. We want him at 100%, not at 80 or 85%.

"It's a normal process and you can't think about what could happen. Every player has a different recovery process and he has suffered with his pains. There's no need to keep going over it. We have to give him time. He's in good spirits and that's the important thing when you're injured. He look good to me, he's smiling."