Gareth Bale can still get better, says Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane
By Nick Wright in Madrid
Last Updated: 17/03/17 3:18pm
Zinedine Zidane has welcomed Gareth Bale's return to the Real Madrid squad for Saturday's La Liga meeting with Athletic Bilbao and says the Welshman's best is yet to come.
Bale is available for selection having overcome an ankle injury and served a two-match suspension for his red card in Madrid's 3-3 draw with Las Palmas earlier this month.
The 27-year-old has become a key player for Madrid since his £85m move from Tottenham in 2013. He has scored nine goals in 21 appearances so far this season and signed a new long-term contract at the Bernabeu in October.
"Gareth is an important member of the squad," Zidane told Sky Sports. "We are happy with his return and that he is with us. We know that he can help us.
"He has a lot more to come. I retired at 34 and I was still learning at 34 all the time. It's the beauty of this sport. When you come to Madrid it's to do something different, learn more or to improve things.
"At 27 years old, he still has his whole life ahead of him to learn and, above all, to make history in this great club. I believe that's what he wants, to win important trophies - we're working on it."
Bale has already won two Champions Leagues and a Copa del Rey trophy with Real Madrid, and his return to action is a considerable boost as they aim to finish the campaign with more silverware.
Zidane's men are aiming to become the first team to retain the Champions League, and they can move five points clear at the top of La Liga if they beat Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.
"We are happy with what we have done up until now," added Zidane. "We are top of the league, we are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but we know the importance of the end of the season, which is where everything is decided.
"The difficult period starts now but at the same time it's nice, it's what the players want. They know we are in it together."
Real Madrid have only won one of their last three trips to San Mames, where seventh-placed Athletic Bilbao boast the second best home record in La Liga this season.
"The league is always competitive in Spain but it's true that this year it is more so," said Zidane. "There aren't just two or three teams. This year we know there are other teams that can give you difficulties.
"There are no easy games. You can play against a team that is bottom of the table but if you don't turn up they can beat you."
Real Madrid are chasing their first La Liga title since 2011-12, and Zidane has implored his players to keep their focus on the challenges ahead.
"We want to win it," he said. "In the end you never know what is going to happen, but the important thing is that we give our maximum so we can be happy with our work.
"I believe with hard work you can achieve things. We have a good squad, with players of quality. With work, you can always do great things. Without work, it's impossible. We are here to do that."