Gareth Bale announced his retirement from club and international football at the age of 33 on Monday, bringing to an end one of the most decorated careers in British football history.
Bale, who made a record 111 appearances for Wales, led his country from the international football wilderness to two European Championships — reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 — and a first World Cup since 1958.
The Los Angeles FC forward, who previously played for Southampton, Tottenham and Real Madrid, made his final competitive appearance during Wales’ World Cup group-stage fixture with England on November 29.
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football,” Bale wrote on his social media accounts.
“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.”
Bale started his career at Southampton but made his name in the Premier League at Tottenham, before moving, for a then world record fee of £85 million ($104 million), to Real Madrid, where he won five Champions League titles.
The forward joined Los Angeles FC in June 2022 and went on to win the MLS Cup in his short stint in the United States.
“From my very first touch at Southampton to my last with LAFC and everything in between, shaped a club career that I have an immense pride and gratitude for,” he said.
He added: “To show my gratitude to all of those that have played their part along this journey, feels like an impossibility. 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 nine years old.”
Bale scored from the penalty spot in his country’s 1-1 draw with USA in Qatar but defeats to Iran and England meant Wales bowed out in the group stage.
He said after their exit from the World Cup that he would keep going for “as long as I’m wanted” but the Cardiff-born attacker has now decided to hang up his boots.
– ‘Hardest’ decision’ –
Bale issued a separate statement to his “Welsh family”, saying his decision to retire from international football had been “by far the hardest of my career”.
“My journey on the international stage is one that has changed not only my life but who I am,” he said.
“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.”
LAFC paid tribute to their star forward.
“We want to thank Gareth for everything he brought to our club,” LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington said. “He arrived here with a goal to win championships in LA and, like he has done everywhere else in his career, he succeeded.
“It was an honour to have one of the most talented, dynamic and exciting players of his generation finish his career with a title for LAFC.”
Tottenham tweeted: “Congratulations on an incredible career.”