SOURCE: BBC – Wales captain Gareth Bale has announced his retirement from football at the age of 33 after a glittering career.
The nation’s most-capped men’s player with 111 appearances announced his decision on social media.
Bale, a five-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, is arguably Wales’ finest ever footballer.
“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 and Real Madrid before his move to Los Angeles.
He was his country’s talisman as they reached the 2016 and 2020 Euros before he led Wales at their first World Cup since 1958 at Qatar 2022.
Wales went out of the tournament at the group stage, with their loss to England proving to be the final appearance of Bale’s career.
It was not a fitting end for a player who achieved extraordinary feats with club and country.
“It (football) has truly given me some of the best moments of my life,” added Bale.
“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 joined Southampton as a schoolboy and made his debut for the Saints as a 16-year-old in April 2006.
His first senior cap followed a matter of weeks later, making Bale Wales’ youngest international – although that record has since been broken.
That marked the start of a Wales career in which Bale inspired his country to the best spell in their history.
Having ended a 58-year wait for a major tournament appearance by qualifying for Euro 2016, Wales produced a sensational run to the semi-finals, only losing to eventual winners Portugal.
They also made it to the knockout stages of the next European Championship before last summer’s play-off final win over Ukraine saw Wales clinch their long-awaited return to the World Cup.
“My decision to retire from international football has been by far the hardest of my career,” Bale said.
“How do I describe what being a part of this country and team means to me? How do I articulate the impact it has had on my life? How do I put into words the way I felt every single time I put on that Welsh shirt? My answer is that I couldn’t possibly do any of those things justice simply with words.
“But I know that every person involved in Welsh football feels the magic and is impacted in such a powerful and unique way, so I know you feel what I feel without using any words at all.
“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.
“I’m 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.
“I shared a dressing room with boys that became brothers and backroom stuff that became family.
“I played for the most incredible managers and felt the undying support and love from the most dedicated fans in the world. Thank you to every one of you for being on this journey with me.
“So for now I am stepping back but not away from the team that lives in me and runs through my veins after all the dragon on my shirt is all I need.”