Carlo Ancelotti has refuted suggestions that he is punishing Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, or Luka Jovic by reducing their playing time.
The three, all of whom have been marginal players this season when healthy, did not appear in a single minute of Thursday’s Copa del Rey defeat to Athletic Club, with Marco Asensio filling a false-nine role and imminent free agent Isco coming off the bench instead of them.
Bale was also seen chuckling on the bench when Ancelotti asked Hazard to return to his seat late in the game, watching as the manager made only two substitutions in the game, which Real Madrid lost 1-0 to Alex Berenguer’s 89th-minute score.
Following the game, Ancelotti was immediately questioned about why Bale, Hazard, and Jovic were not on the pitch and whether he was ‘punishing’ them, but the manager denied any ill will toward the players.
“I had changes left, I was thinking of making them in extra time,” he said. “Unfortunately they scored at the end of the game and I didn’t have time to score other players.
“I have nothing else to say. Why do you talk about them [Bale, Hazard, and Jovic] and not about [Dani] Ceballos or [Dani] Carvajal? There is nothing. I have made decisions that have not involved these players. But to be fair, you should talk about Ceballos and [Jesus] Vallejo, who haven’t played a single minute either.
“It was a tough game. We won the league game, but this one was more difficult. The game was even until the last minute. For their effort, Athletic deserved it, but I don’t think this was the worst game of our season.”
Bale is expected to depart the club in the summer when his contract ends, while Hazard and Jovic will be added to the transfer list as Real pursue Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.