Gareth Bale, Wales captain, has announced his retirement from football at the age of 33, following a glittering career.
The decision was announced on social media by the country’s most-capped male player and record men’s goalscorer.
Bale is arguably Wales’ greatest ever footballer, having won the Champions League five times with Real Madrid.
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football,” Bale said.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have realised my dream of playing the sport I love.”
Cardiff-born Bale’s club career took him from Southampton to Tottenham Hotspur, then to Real Madrid in a world record transfer before joining Major League Soccer club Los Angeles FC in June 2022.
He was his country’s talisman as they won the European Championships in 2016 and 2020, before leading Wales to their first World Cup since 1958 in Qatar 2022. He finished his international career with 41 goals in 111 appearances.
Bale was named footballer of the year twice while at Tottenham, in 2010-11 and 2012-13, before joining Real Madrid for a world-record fee of more than £80 million in September 2013.
During his time in Madrid, Bale helped Real Madrid win three league titles and five Champions League titles – a feat no other British player has accomplished – as well as three Club World Cups, three Uefa Super Cups, and a Spanish cup.
“It [football] has truly provided me with some of the best moments of my life,” Bale added.
“No matter what the next chapter has in store for me, the highest of highs over 17 seasons will be impossible to replicate.”
While Real Madrid fans criticized him at times, Welsh fans never questioned Bale’s contribution.
Wales exited the recent World Cup in the group stage, with their loss to England proving to be Bale’s final appearance.
It was an unjust end for a player who had accomplished so much for his country.
Bale debuted for Southampton as a 16-year-old in April 2006, and his first senior cap came just a few weeks later.
Bale became Wales’ youngest international at the time, though that record has since been broken.
That first appearance, against Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly in May 2006, marked the start of a Wales career in which Bale inspired his country to their best spell in history.
Wales produced a sensational run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, ending a 58-year wait for a major tournament appearance by qualifying for the tournament.
They also advanced to the knockout stages of the following European Championship before last summer’s play-off final victory over Ukraine secured Wales’ long-awaited return to the World Cup.