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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 August 2018

Gareth Bale will 'help fill the void' left by Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, insists Julen Lopetegui

Portuguese forward joined Italian champions Juventus in July, ending a record-breaking nine-year spell in the Spanish capital

Gareth Bale can "help fill the void" left by Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui has said.

Portuguese forward Ronaldo, 33, joined Italian champions Juventus in July, ending a record-breaking nine-year spell in the Spanish capital.

Madrid's only attacking reinforcement so far this summer has been 18-year-old Brazilian Vinicius Junior, but Bale - who had also been linked with an exit from the Bernabeu - has been backed to take on more responsibility this season.

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"Gareth is happy to play at Real Madrid," Lopetegui said at a press conference in Miami ahead of Madrid's International Champions Cup match against Manchester United.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the main players in the recent history of Real Madrid. He expressed a desire to leave and we allowed him to.

"Gareth Bale is a magnificent player, with so many qualities. He can help fill the void."

Bale came off the bench to score twice in Madrid's Uefa Champions League final win against Liverpool in May.

The Wales forward has lifted European football's biggest prize four times since joining Madrid in 2013.

Lopetegui has replaced Zinedine Zidane as the club's manager since that third successive Champions League success, and the former Spain head coach believes he has a squad good enough to challenge again.

"We are delighted with the squad we have and are convinced that we will fight for all our objectives," Lopetegui said. "If a player doesn't come or go, I will be a happy coach.

"With the squad we have, we will be able to face the demands of Real Madrid."

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