Real Madrid newly appointed manager Zinedine Zidane has admitted he can understand that Gareth Bale might be "upset" by the Monday's dismissal of Rafa Benitez (4 January) but assured the former Tottenham star will remain as a crucial part of his plans.
Reports in England in the aftermath of Benitez's departure claimed that Manchester United are ready to renew their efforts to lure the Wales international back to the Premier League as the player is disapointed with the managerial change.
Benitez reportedly enjoyed a fractious relationship with a number of key Real Madrid players during his short tenure in La Liga – namely Sergio Ramos, Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the former Liverpool and Chelsea boss looked close to Bale after handing him the 'privilege' to return to his favourite position as the number 10 – under Carlo Ancelotti Bale had to play on the right-flank.
The Mirror reported that United were ready to take advantage of Bale's upset by launching a £75m --plus bid to secure his services. But speaking in his first press conference on Tuesday 5 January as new Real Madrid manager Zidane said: "I understand Gareth might be upset with Rafa's departure but he will get the same affection and support from me as from Rafa."
"He is an important player and a key player for the squad. He's phenomenal and we're going to give him all the care and support he needs."
The France legend had lavished praise Bale in the past, while backing President Florentino Perez to make him the world record signing in the summer of 2013 when Real Madrid signed him from Tottenham.
Zidane therefore insists that his idea is to keep Bale, Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in his starting line-up, despite Benitez being heavily criticized for using the trio together as some believed the team lacked balance with them.
"Yes. I'll play with all three. Clearly that's the idea," he confirmed.
The former Real Madrid star has also refused to address comparisons with Pep Guardiola, after the Catalan had a successful spell with Barcelona. Zidane hopes to make his own mark at the Santiago Bernabeu with offensive football, hoping to help them to win titles as he did whilst assisting Ancelotti in the 2013-2014 season, when the club won to both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey crowns.
"You shouldn't make comparisons with me and Guardiola. He has achieved incredible things. Guardiola is a fantastic coach and what he is doing is very impressive. Guardiola is Guardiola. I will do my best. I will not compare myself with anyone. I never did it as a player and I won't do it now," he said.
"We'll see in the next few days and in the future how the team might look. I'm going to try and contribute with something personal to this team, I want my football to be different, to be positive and I've mentioned balance," he said. "I had Carlo Ancelotti as a coach as well and worked with him as assistant and he's a hard-working man. He contributed to Real Madrid winning the Décima and winning games, which is what I want to do."
Asked about whether the club are still candidates to win the Champions League, he said: "Everything is possible with this shirt. Winning is fundamental at this club. It will always be the objective and this is the case too with the Champions League."
Just before to the press conference, around 6,000 fans watched Zidane take his first-team training at the club training ground as his side prepare for the Saturday's clash with Deportivo La Coruna at the Bernabeu.