Wales star Gareth Bale has announced his retirement from football at the age of 33, bringing down the curtain on an illustrious career that saw him become his nation’s most-capped men’s player and win an array of trophies with Spanish club side Real Madrid.
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from the club and international football,” Bale said in a statement on Monday.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have realized my dream of playing the sport I love. It has truly given me some of the best moments of my life,” the Los Angeles FC forward added.
“The highest of highs over 17 seasons, that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me,” he said.
Rewriting Welsh footballing history
Bale, a five-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, is one of the finest footballers ever to represent Wales and played a record 111 games for his country.
As captain and talisman, he led Wales to their first World Cup since 1958 at Qatar 2022. That came on the back of earlier successes that saw the country qualify for the 2016 and 2020 European championship tournaments, largely inspired by Bale’s brilliance.
His 41 goals put him top of Wales’ all-time leading men’s scorers list, 13 ahead of legendary striker Ian Rush.
“My decision to retire from international football has been by far the hardest of my career,” Bale said.
“My journey on the international stage is one that has changed not only my life but who I am. The fortune of being Welsh and being selected to play for and captain Wales has given me something incomparable to anything else I’ve experienced,” he added.
Glittering club career
Bale started his senior career in England at then-Championship side Southampton when the south coast team introduced him to professional football as a 16-year-old.
He quickly moved onwards and upwards, heading to London side Tottenham Hotspur a year later.
After six seasons in the Premier League, a time in which his talent began to flourish and decide games, Bale was signed by Spanish behemoths Real Madrid for a fee reported by British media at the time to be 100 million euros ($107.45m).
He went on to score more than 100 goals for the club, helping them to a string of Champions League titles, three Spanish league triumphs and other domestic cup successes.
However, Bale found himself on the fringes of the side towards the end of his time in the Spanish capital and eventually departed for the United States to join Los Angeles FC in June.
It wasn’t long before he had an impact on his new side, helping them win the Major League Soccer championship after scoring a 128th-minute equalizer in the final. LA went on to beat Philadelphia on penalty kicks.
“From my very first touch at Southampton to my last with LAFC and everything in between, shaped a club career that I have immense pride and gratitude for,” Bale said.
“I feel indebted to many people for helping to change my life and shape my career in a way I couldn’t ever have dreamed of when I first started out at 9 years old.”