Julen Lopetegui Backs Gareth Bale for 'Great Season' Before UEFA Super Cup

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 07:  Gareth Bale #11 of Real Madrid celebrates with Marco Asensio #20 after scoring a goal in the 15th minute against Robin Olsen #1 of Roma during the first half of the International Champions Cup match at MetLife Stadium on August 7, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/International Champions Cup/Getty Images)
Elsa/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui spoke of his "love" for Gareth Bale ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Super Cup clash with Atletico Madrid in Estonia. 

The Welshman is expected to play a major role in 2018-19 after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lopetegui said he has been impressed with Bale's motivation in pre-season, per David Schiavone of Marca:

"Bale is a player we love, he has been here a long time and has been training hard. He is motivated and is an important player who forms part of the team, and being a team is what is important. We need great players like him, and I'm more than happy with his work and attitude. 

"We have player who is a super professional player in all aspects, who is training with the motivation of a youth player and who is helping us enormously. Yet I wouldn't want to rely on one or two players. It is the team which is the main thing, and we will help Bale have a great season."

TALLINN, ESTONIA - AUGUST 14:  Julen Lopetegui, head coach of  Real Madrid CF reacts during a training session ahead of the UEFA Super Cup match against Atletico Madrid at Lillekuela Stadium on August 14, 2018 in Tallinn, Estonia.  (Photo by Alexander Has
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Now 29, Bale has been at Real since 2013. He has won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, four UEFA Champions Leagues and has an excellent scoring record in the Spanish top flight having netted 70 goals in 126 appearances. 

However, there is still a widespread feeling he has not quite reached his potential at the Santiago Bernabeu, partly because he has always been in Ronaldo's shadow but also due to frequent fitness issues.

The 2018-19 campaign presents Bale with a huge opportunity.

There is still time remaining in the transfer window, but it does not look as though Real are going to bring in a new galactico to replace Ronaldo.

As such, Bale will have the chance to become the new talisman at Real under Lopetegui.

The former Tottenham Hotspur man proved his worth when he came off the bench to net twice in the Champions League final back in May, the first of which was a spectacular overhead kick:

B/R Football @brfootball

Gareth Bale tells us what was going through his head before he scored THAT goal in the Champions League final https://t.co/N9XY2VIrAN

If he can remain fit throughout the new campaign Bale could finally establish himself as Real's No. 1 star in Ronaldo's absence.