Gareth Bale must earn his place in the Tottenham Hotspur team on the training pitch and will not be picked so he can boost his match fitness, said manager Jose Mourinho.
The 31-year-old Wales international is back at Spurs on a season-long loan deal from Real Madrid.
But the forward, hampered by fitness issues, has mostly been confined to Europa League games, playing just 45 minutes of Premier League football since early November.
Bale came on in the FA Cup third-round win over non-league Marine earlier this month and may get more time on the pitch in the fourth-round clash against Championship side Wycombe later on Monday.
But Mourinho said playing time was not a gift.
“I cannot give players minutes,” said the Portuguese manager. “Minutes on the pitch is not something that I can give.
“I am going in this direction. We all know the difficulties he had in the last couple of seasons, we all know that he arrived injured and we all know that even this season a little bit up and down with small things.”
Bale is desperate for game time, with Wales involved in the European Championships, due to start in June.
“The most important thing for him is to be consistent (in) training without problems,” said Mourinho.
“When a player is consistently training at high intensity without any problems then the player is ready – not to be given minutes but is ready to earn minutes and that is a different thing.”
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