Gareth Bale, Wales’ all-time leading goalscorer and Real Madrid’s five-time Champions League winner, has announced his retirement from football. Bale, one of Britain’s most decorated players, has left Los Angeles FC midway through his contract, which was set to expire this summer..
Bale’s decision comes less than a month after pledging to continue playing following Wales’ disappointing group-stage exit in their first World Cup finals tournament in 64 years. Bale captained Wales in his first World Cup appearance.
“By far the most difficult decision of my career has been to retire from international football,” Bale said. “My international journey has changed not only my life but also the lives of others..
Bale began his career at Southampton, making his debut at the age of 16, and spent six years at Tottenham before joining Real Madrid in 2013 for a then-world-record fee of £85 million. He stated in November that he would continue to play until the end of Wales’ Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. In 111 international appearances, Bale scored 41 goals.
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football,” Bale said in a separate statement on social media.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have realized my dream of playing the sport I adore. It has truly provided me with some of the most memorable experiences of my life..
The greatest of highs over 17 seasons that I will never be able to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.”
It means that Bale’s final game was a 3-0 loss to England in November in Qatar, where he was substituted at half-time. Following that, Wales manager Rob Page was confident Bale would keep his word. “I don’t think you’ll see Gareth in a Wales jersey for the last time,” Page said.
Bale’s greatest moment, arguably, came on the biggest stage in club football, with his stunning overhead-kick goal against Liverpool in the Champions League final in 2018, the first of two goals in Kyiv that were crucial in securing victory..
His game-winning goal against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final in 2014 drew similar praise. Bale picked up the ball halfway through the half before sprinting off the field, past Marc Bartra, who had equalized, before returning to the field and slotting home the winner..
His spectacular double against Austria in Wales’ World Cup playoff semi-final in Cardiff last March was also crucial in his country’s path to the World Cup finals. “I’m taking a step back, but not away from the team that lives in me and flows through my veins,” Bale explained. “After all, I only need the dragon on my shirt.”
“Diolch @GarethBale11 for everything you have given to Welsh football,” said Noel Mooney, chief executive of the Football Association of Wales..
Bale earned his 100th Wales cap against Belarus in November 2021, three years after breaking Ian Rush’s goalscoring record with a hat-trick in China. His final goal for his country was a penalty against the United States in Qatar in November, and his final goal at domestic level was a 128th-minute headed equalizer to help LAFC win the Major League Soccer Cup earlier that month.
Bale scored 81 goals in 176 games for Real Madrid, but his final nine years were marred by controversy and injury. Bale received stinging criticism in Spain for celebrating Wales’s qualification for Euro 2020 by cavorting with a flag that read: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that Order”..
During the World Cup, Bale, who owns two golf bars and is said to play off the cuff, was asked about his passion for the game. “Mentally, it’s always been a place for me to get away from the pressures of football and life,” he explained. “It’s a pleasant diversion from the hectic life of a professional footballer.”
Bale has a mural dedicated to him in Whitchurch, north Cardiff, where he grew up with his parents, Frank and Debbie, and sister, Vicky. “I wouldn’t be writing this statement right now if it hadn’t been for your dedication in those early days, without such a strong foundation,” Bale said. “A time of transition and change, an opportunity for a new adventure.
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