Real Madrid have opened negotiations with Gareth Bale about extending the Wales forward's contract, according to reports.

Spanish daily Marca reported the 26-year-old, whose current deal expires in 2019, is likely to agree to fresh terms by the summer, dealing a blow to Manchester United's hopes of signing him.

Bale has scored 13 goals in 17 appearances across all competitions for Madrid this season, including a hat-trick in Zinedine Zidane's first game as head coach against Deportivo La Coruna on 9 January.

Marca said Real were keen on rewarding the former Tottenham player's improved attitude and application this season. It claimed that a contract renewal would represent recognition of his elevated standing in the dressing room, where he is seen as Cristiano Ronaldo's successor.

Bale was reportedly upset with the departure of Rafael Benitez from the club but is liked by his successor Zidane, who described him as a "key player".

"Gareth was disappointed with the sacking of Rafa because he was an important coach for him but I will treat him the same way Rafa did," Zidane was quoted as saying by Sky Sports on 5 January. "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."

Man Utd interest

Bale joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur for a world-record fee of €100.8m in 2013 and has scored 41 goals in 73 league appearances.

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo
Bale, 26, is currently out of action with a calf injury Reuters

United have been constantly linked with a move for the Wales forward, with the Sunday Times reporting earlier this month that the Premier League giants were willing to pay £90m to bring him to Old Trafford.

The paper claimed that the Red Devils were prepared to offer a similar price for Bale last summer but were turned away by Real president Florentino Perez, while the player himself wished to stay in Spain.

Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich have also been linked with the Southampton academy graduate.