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Bale can step into Ronaldo's shoes: Real boss


By Paul Bradford

Gareth Bale can fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, according to new Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui.

Ronaldo joined Juventus last month, ending a record-breaking nine-year spell in the Spanish capital.

Real'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 following disputes over his contract - has been backed to take on more responsibility this season.

"Gareth is happy to play at Real Madrid," Lopetegui said at a press conference in Miami.

"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 Real's Champions League final win against Liverpool in May.

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

Lopetegui has replaced Zinedine Zidane as the club's head coach since that third successive Champions League success, and the former Spain boss - axed on the eve of the World Cup after agreeing to take up the Real reins - believes he has a squad good enough to challenge for European honours again.

"We are delighted with the squad we have and are convinced that we will fight for all of our objectives," Lopetegui added.

"If a player doesn't come or go, I will be a happy coach. With the squad, we will be able to face the demands of Real Madrid."

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