Wales captain Gareth Bale retires from football at the age of 33

Gareth Bale has announced his retirement from football.

Bale, the most capped player for Wales with 111 appearances, confirmed the decision on social media.

The former Southampton, Tottenham and Real Madrid striker made his final appearance in Wales’ World Cup group stage match against England on 29 November.

Bale, 33, wrote on his social media accounts: “After careful and considered consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football.

“I feel incredibly happy to have fulfilled my dream of doing the sport I love.

“It really gave me some of the best moments of my life. The highest of 17 seasons that will be impossible to repeat no matter what awaits me in the next chapter.

Speculation about Bale’s future has been constantly discussed in recent seasons as his playing time at club level has been limited, but his importance to Wales has never waned and launched them into their first World Cup since 1958 with a winner against Ukraine last summer.

He left Real Madrid shortly after to sign for Los Angeles FC and scored in his last club appearance in November, helping the team win the MLS Cup by beating Philadelphia Union on penalties.

It would be the 17th trophy won by Bale during a glittering career and would provide him with momentum ahead of Wales’ historic return to the world stage this winter.

Bale scored from the penalty spot in his country’s 1-1 draw with the US, but defeats to Iran and England sent Wales out of the group stage in Qatar.

While the five-time Champions League winner insisted he could continue playing, the Cardiff-born striker decided to hang up his boots.

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League - Final - NSK Olympic Stadium

Gareth Bale enjoyed a trophy-rich spell at Real Madrid (Nick Potts/PA)

“My decision to retire from international football was by far the most difficult of my career,” said Bale.

“My international journey has changed not only my life but also who I am. The happiness of being Welsh and being chosen to play for the Wales captain has given me something unlike anything else I have experienced.

“I am honored and humbled to have played a part in the history of this amazing country, to feel the support and passion of the red wall and to be together in unexpected and amazing places.

“Thank you to each of you for being with me on this journey.

“So for now, I’m stepping back, but I’m not stepping away from the band that lives in me and flows through my veins. After all, a dragon on my shirt is all I need.

Bale first made his mark after coming through Southampton’s academy and marked his early performances as a 16-year-old with a free-kick goal against Derby that became his trademark.

He moved to Tottenham in 2007 and after a difficult start in London, the Welshman firmly caught the attention of the football world with a series of dazzling performances at White Hart Lane, notably in the Champions League in 2010-11.

Real Madrid applied, and a then-record fee of £85.1 million saw him trade the Premier League for LaLiga.

Football - Barclays Premier League - Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur - Villa Park

Bale played for Tottenham before moving to Real Madrid for a then-record fee (David Davies/PA)

Bale was to spend nine years at the Bernabeu and although his time in the Spanish capital was full of ups and downs, he left after becoming the most successful British footballer to grace foreign shores.

The striker played a key role in four of Madrid’s five Champions League titles during his spell, and scored a wonder goal in a triumph over Liverpool in 2018.

Bale added: “I am grateful to the many people who have helped change my life and shape my career in ways I never could have dreamed of when I started at the age of nine.

“To my previous clubs, Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and finally LAFC. All my previous managers and coaches, backroom staff, teammates, all my dedicated fans, my agents, my wonderful friends and family, you have had an immeasurable impact.

“I am looking forward to the next phase of my life. A time of change and transformation, a chance for a new adventure.

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