MADRID, (Reuters) – Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale said yesterday he regretted rushing back from ankle surgery earlier in the season and admitted he was not fully fit for the Champions League final against Juventus in his home city of Cardiff.
Bale missed almost three months with an ankle injury he suffered in November against Sporting Lisbon and has spent the last six weeks recovering from two separate calf problems. He said he was not yet fully recovered and appeared resigned to not starting what should have been a dream final.
“I’m not 100 percent,” Bale told reporters yesterday. “I haven’t played in six or seven weeks. I had my ankle operation, which still hasn’t really recovered. I’d been in a lot of pain in training and have taken tablets to get through games.
“Obviously, any surgery is difficult, but in the middle of a season it’s always that bit more difficult. You want to come back as soon as possible. In hindsight, I should have stayed out a bit longer and let it heal and strengthen. But obviously that wasn’t the case. I’ll live and I’ll learn.”
Bale has won two Champions Leagues with Real, scoring in the 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid in Lisbon in 2014 and converting a penalty in the shoot-out victory over Atletico in Milan in 2016.
The question of whether Zinedine Zidane will field Bale at the Millenium Stadium or high-flying Spanish midfielder Isco has dominated the Spanish media before Saturday’s final, where Real are bidding to become the first team to successfully defend the European Cup since AC Milan in 1990.
Bale said he would accept whatever decision Zidane made. Isco, who has scored five goals and notched three assists in his last eight games, was in a strong position to start ahead of him, he said.
“If I’m called upon to start, I will start, obviously. But to last 90 minutes – I haven’t played a lot of football this year since my operation, so that would be difficult,” said Bale, who joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur for a then-world record 100 million euros in 2013.
“Isco has been playing fantastically well for us in the end of the season, so whatever the manager decides I will .
“Obviously, if I am picked to start, I will start. If not, I will be doing that as well. It has been quite a difficult year for me, with injuries. I’ve been very unlucky with my ankle to require surgery, so it has been very frustrating.
“Now I feel finally it is healing. It is right there, almost at 100 percent, but whatever the manager requires of me I will be there to do it.”