Zinedine Zidane says Gareth Bale is “desperate” to play in a Champions League homecoming against Juventus as debate rages over Real Madrid’s starting XI for Saturday’s showdown.
Bale has not played since suffering the latest in a series of calf injuries against Barcelona on April 23, but has returned to training ahead of the clash in his hometown of Cardiff.
The pressure is on Real boss Zidane to choose between Madrid’s record signing or stick with in-form Isco, who has scored five goals and notched three assists in his last eight games.
Spanish commentators have talked up Isco’s worth ahead of the final, while opposition manager Max Allegri has waded in, declaring the Spaniard “much more technical” than the Wales international.
But Zidane insisted he would not be swayed by popular opinion, telling reporters at his pre-match news conference: “It’s normal that there’s this debate. They’re both very important players and everyone can give their opinion but it’s not going to influence me.
“The most important thing is that everyone is available and prepared for the game.
“Gareth doesn’t need to tell me anything. He is ready, he is back with us and he is absolutely desperate to play because it is his home.
“We know what type of player Isco is – he showed that throughout the season – but the important thing is that all our players are in top form.”
Bale’s injuries have limited him to 24 starts in all competitions this season, the lowest number of games he has played since his big-money move from Tottenham in 2013.
But he has proved decisive in the three major finals he has played for Real, scoring in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona and the 2014 Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, as well as providing an assist in the 2016 final against Atletico and converting his penalty in the shoot-out win.
As questions over his team selection persisted, Zidane even raised the possibility of the two playing together at some stage against the Italian champions.
“The two of them are very good players,” he added. “They played 16 games together this season; everyone speaks about Gareth or Isco but they can play together.”