The fraught relationship between Gareth Bale and his Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane took another turn on Thursday night.
The Welsh international was not included in Real's travelling party for Friday's Champions League last-16 second leg away to Manchester City.
However, Zidane revealed that the omission was Bale's choice.
The 31-year old has started just one match for the La Liga champions since football returned in Spain - a 2-0 win over Real Mallorca on June 24.
Since then, Bale was an unused substitute in six games, and left out of the squad entirely for their season-closing draw with Leganes.
The former Tottenham and Southampton player on the surface appears destined for the exit door at the Bernabeu. But with two years remaining on his contract, Bale seems happy to collect his salary without doing much in return.
Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett insisted a fortnight ago, "He likes living in Madrid and he is going nowhere".
Real need to come from 2-1 down to Manchester City on Friday night if they're to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Zidane was asked why that task will be undertaken without Bale, "We have a respectful relationship as coach and player, of course.
"All I can say is that he preferred not to play, nothing more. The rest is between him and me."
It's believed Bale opted not to travel to Manchester when it became clear he would not be involved.
Zidane declined to elaborate further when pressed on the matter.
Asked whether Bale will be a Real player next season, Zidane replied, "I don't know. Now he is a current player at Real Madrid. That has not changed.
"He is our player. I respect that and I respect him, like everyone else.
"He preferred not to play. That is the only thing I can tell you. The rest of us are all here, preparing for the game. The only thing we are concentrating on is the game."