Gareth Bundle has announced his retirement from professional football at 33 years old.
Bale made the shocking announcement on Monday January 9, in a statement posted on his social media channels.
The announcement stops a career that saw Bale succeed for Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and LAFC, while also laying down a good foundation for himself as quite possibly, the best player in Welsh football history.
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football,” Bale said in a 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. The highest of highs over 17 seasons, that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.”
At club level, Bale began his incredible career at Southampton, and his fitting form there procured him a transition to Tottenham in May 2007. He joined Spurs as a left-back however was before long moved to a position on the left of Tottenham’s attacking line, and he then laid down a good foundation for himself as perhaps the best player on the planet.
He won a variety of individual honors for his performance at the Premier League, and in September 2013, Madrid signed him on a six-year deal for a then-world-record charge of €100 million.
In Spain, Bale won three La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and five Champions Leagues (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2022). Although he excluded himself in the latter stages of his Madrid contract, he contributed some historic moments for Los Blancos, including his stunning overhead kick in their 3-1 win over Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final.
Towards the end of his Madrid career, he spent the 2020-21 campaign on loan back at Spurs. And after one final season back at Madrid, he left the club in June 2022 at the end of his contract and signed a 12-month deal with LAFC.
He showed up in the States, and his most prominent commitment accompanied a 128th-minute extra-time header in the MLS Cup final that saw LAFC draw the game level 3-3 against Philadelphia Union. That constrained the match to a penalty shootout, which prompted LAFC getting their most memorable significant prize.
“To show my gratitude to all of those that have played their part along this journey feels like an impossibility,” Bale added. “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.
“To my previous clubs Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and finally LAFC, all of my managers and coaches, backroom staff, teammates, all the dedicated fans, my agents, my amazing friends and family, the impact you have had is immeasurable.”
Bale’s last game was for Wales in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where he earned the last of his record-breaking 111 caps in their 3-0 defeat to England. He captained the team into that competition and, in announcing his retirement, issued a separate statement addressed to his “Welsh family.”
He calls time on his international career as the most capped Wales men’s player with 111 appearances, sitting alongside his record-setting 41 goals. He helped the team to their journey to the semifinals of Euro 2016, alongside spearheading their campaigns at Euro 2020 and the recent World Cup, in what was the Welsh men’s teams first appearance in the World Cup since 1958.
“My journey on the international stage is one that has changed not only my life but who I am,” Bale wrote. “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.
“I am honoured and humbled to have been able to play a part in the history of this incredible country, to have felt the support and passion of the red wall, and together have been to unexpected and amazing places.”
Meanwhile, Bale has not announced what his next plans are:
“I move on with anticipation to the next stage of my life,” he wrote in his retirement statement. “A time of change and transition, an opportunity for a new adventure.”
Whatever form that new adventure takes, he says he will keep a close eye on his Wales team.
“So for now I am stepping back, but not away from the team that lives in me and runs through my veins,” he added. “After all, the dragon on my shirt is all I need.”