'When Bale scored in the Champions League final he was happy' - Zidane plays down Wales banner criticism

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has moved to play down any suggestion he would be upset with Gareth Bale following the controversy surrounding the forward's recent appearances for Wales.

Bale has not made an appearance for Madrid since October 5 due to a calf injury, but was fit to line up for his national side against both Azerbaijan and Hungary over the past week as Ryan Giggs' team secured their place at Euro 2020.

The former Tottenham star was pictured after the Hungary game celebrating with a Wales flag which included the words "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order." in relation to a recent interview in which ex-Real striker Pedja Mijatovic questioned Bale's priorities.

Bale also stated during the international break that he gets more enjoyment out of playing for Wales than Madrid, with fans and media in the Spanish capital lambasting him for showing little respect to the club which pays his wages.

Zidane, though, refused to be critical of Bale's actions, telling a press conference: "I think a lot of noise is made with Bale's gesture and what needs to be done is to focus on football, me as a coach and he as a player. It's too much already.

"The player has left with the national team, he has been able to play and we got him back. I only look at sports performance, not what is said outside. I am not interested in the outside.

"I'll always say the same. When you look at what he has given this club, and its fans, the ones who come to the stadium know that he is one of our own, and the fans must be on his side.

"I think he can be a decisive player. I only think about that. If something does not happen to him, he is a very important player. When something happens to him, of course, like when he is injured, it changes. I am going to count on Bale."

Bale has previously been criticised for failing to adapt to Spanish culture, with his struggles with a new language regularly cited as an issue.

Gareth Bale Real Madrid 2019

And Zidane feels that may be at the root of the 30-year-old's comments on his enjoyment when playing for Wales, though he does not believe that representing Madrid is a burden for the player.

Asked if Bale was happier playing for Wales than Madrid, Zidane said: "I don't think so. Maybe it's the language. It's the only thing.

"He looked happy to me when scoring the goal in the Champions League final. And he did that with Madrid. It's just the language. In the dressing room he's fine."

Having trained with the Madrid squad on Thursday and Friday, Bale is in contention to return to the line-up against Real Sociedad on Saturday when the Blancos resume their pursuit of the Liga title.

A crunch Champions League clash against Paris Saint-Germain follows on Tuesday as the 13-time European champions look to book their place in the knockout stages.