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Gareth Bale announces his retirement: A look back at his professional and international career

The Welsh winger announced his immediate retirement from football on social media.

The Welsh winger announced his immediate retirement from football on social media.

Gareth Bale has retired from club and international football at 33 years old. The forward, whose last club was LAFC in the United States, announced today on social media that “after careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football.”

Gareth Bale’s retirement statement

I feel incredibly fortunate to have realised my dream of playing the sport I love. It has truly given me some of the best moments of my life”, read the statement. “I feel indebted to many people for helping to change my life and shape my career in a way I couldn’t have ever dreamed of when I first started out at 9 years old.

An extraordinary career

The Welsh winger first rose to prominence after strong performances for Southampton, where he scored 5 goals in 40 games from left-back. He moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2007 to play as a defender, but quickly found himself more comfortable when going forward and contributing higher up the pitch with goals and assists from a wide left position.

Bale scored 21 goals in the league during his final season with Spurs before making the move to Real Madrid in 2013.
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Bale scored 21 goals in the league during his final season with Spurs before making the move to Real Madrid in 2013.GLYN KIRKAFP

Bale becomes a star for Spurs

His breakout game in this sense was arguably the famous match for Spurs against Inter at the San Siro, where Bale scored a hat-trick from left-back and tormented right-back Maicon all night. Tottenham lost 4-3 but Bale had made his name as one of the Premier League’s most dangerous attacking players.

As time went on, Bale’s influence in the Tottenham team grew and he eventually established himself as an out and out winger in the side. In 2012 he changed his number from 3 to 11, claiming he “was not a left-back anymore” and had “asked the club for a higher number”.

His best season at Spurs came as the rumours of a move to Real Madrid grew, and he scored 21 goals in 33 games, including various fabulous long range efforts that won him goal of the month on more than one occasion. He had now moved from the left to having a free role within the side, preferring to drift in from the right in order to be able to shoot from distance, something which had become his speciality.

Realising a childhood dream

In the search for trophies, Gareth Bale realised a childhood dream and moved to Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 for a world-record fee, according to the British press (£85.3 million/€100 million/$123million), linking up with Cristiano Ronaldo as well as former Spurs teammate, Luka Modric. Here Bale would have fantastic success early on, scoring the 2-1 goal in both the Champions League and Copa del Rey final, the latter an amazing run from his own half of the pitch against Barcelona at Mestalla.

Thousands of Real Madrid fans flocked to the Bernabéu to welcome Gareth Bale after his move from England.
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Thousands of Real Madrid fans flocked to the Bernabéu to welcome Gareth Bale after his move from England.Paul HannaREUTERS

Bale’s early success slowly turned to failure

He sealed Real Madrid’s legendary 10 Champions League in his first year at the club, and in his second season the goals kept coming, as he scored 13 and got 2 assists, although Real Madrid ended the season without any trophies and Carlo Ancelotti was soon dismissed.

In Bale’s third year, he was arguably the most influential player in their run to winning the Champions League for the 11th time, but this is probably where things took a turn for the worse. Injuries began to hamper Bale’s progress in the side, and eventually the fans began to get frustrated with the amount of time on the sidelines, seeing his injuries as something of a lack of effort from the player’s part, given the outward enthusiasm he showed when playing for Wales was not there for his club side.

A sad exit from Spain

From then on, the relationship between the fans and player got increasingly tense, despite Bale scoring perhaps the greatest Champions League final goal of all time in 2018, with an incredible overhead kick from the edge of the box against Liverpool.

Bale moved back to Spurs on loan in 2020 but failed to find form, with injuries and a lack of game time causing him the same problems he had suffered during the latter stages of his time at Madrid. He moved to LAFC and, just like at Madrid, got his career off to a flying start, scoring a headed goal in the MLS Cup final to make it 3-3; LAFC went on to win on penalties.

Bale at the World Cup 2022

At the World Cup, Bale failed to shine, his solitary goal coming in the first game against the USA from the penalty spot. He was fairly quiet after that, not seeing much of the ball or having much influence as Wales sat back and defended, something Bale’s body was no longer equipped to do.

What next for Gareth Bale?

The statement says “I move on with anticipation to the next stage of my life. A time for change and transition, an opportunity for a new adventure.” Might we see Bale on the sidelines at some point in the future? Only time will tell. The forward played 258 times for Real Madrid, scoring 106 goals and winning La Liga 3 times and the Champions League 5 times between 2014 and 2022. For Tottenham, he scored 72 goals from 237 games and for his country he featured 111 times, most recently at the Qatar World Cup 2022.

How will he be remembered?

In Madrid, not very fondly. And that is quite a shame. La Décima for Real Madrid’s fans, for Florentino Pérez and for the image of the club had warped around and turned into chains that was holding them back, tied to the wall, unable to mutter anything else like a possessed monk. And Bale broke that curse. OK, Real Madrid won the final 4-1 in the end, and Sergio Ramos’ header was the moment, but Bale still made sure the tide turned Madrid’s way and not Atlético’s. As mentioned, he was the best player for the side 2 years later when they won on penalties against Atlético and without him they wouldn’t have won the 2018 Champions League either. OK, injuries and certain attitude moments have made it easy to portray him in a different light, but to forget a man so easily who gave so much - which is what I suspect may happen - would be a huge shame.

There are certain players who have passed through, are passing through or will pass through who will cost more and contribute less (you know who I’m thinking of) and not a word will be said. Others will be rightly vilified for doing nothing: Gareth Bale should not be put in the same bracket as them.


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