Wales boss Chris Coleman does not expect to see Real Madrid star Gareth Bale back to his best until next year.
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Bale, 24, has made just one La Liga start for Real since joining the club from Tottenham Hotspur for a world record fee of 100 million euros.
The forward has been struggling with a thigh problem while recent reports have suggested a back injury is also hindering his return to fitness.
Real have played down concerns that Bale could face surgery on his back, insisting he will be "120 percent" fit for Oct. 26's 'Clasico' at Barcelona's Camp Nou.
Coleman, though, believes it will take time for the winger to rediscover his best form, after such a scintillating 2012-13 season was followed by a disjointed preseason.
He said in the Daily Mirror: "I took a lot of criticism in the last camp against Macedonia and Serbia for not playing Gareth. Why would I not play him if he was fit?
"He had no preseason training. Anyone who has played top-level professional football will know that if you have no preseason and expect to pick up where you finished the season before then you are bonkers and crackers. It doesn't happen. You can't miss a whole preseason.
"It takes time. He's a super player and athlete, but you can't just switch it on and off. It doesn't matter how good you are. When you have missed all of preseason then you are always playing catch up.
"So I won't be surprised if it's after Christmas before we see Gareth properly getting into it again. It may take him some time to get back to that especially with the extra pressure on him of going to Real Madrid. It's difficult for him.
"I don't know how serious the injury is. I hope it's not, but it may take time to see what Gareth is capable of and what we've seen from him before."
Regarding the conjecture over a possible back injury for Bale, Coleman played down claims the issue stems from time he spent on international duty.
He added: "There was no problem with his back. He missed the 2012 Olympics and our game against Mexico in the same year.
"But he's never complained about his back when he has been with Wales."