Gareth Bale has penned an emotional letter to Wales fans after announcing his retirement from professional football on Monday.
Bale, 33, has decided to call it a day after more than 650 games for club and country. Rumours of his intention to retire first appeared months ago, as it was suggested the news would come after the Qatar World Cup. In the end, these murmurings turned out to be true.
Bale achieved plenty during his club career and his showings at international level will always be fondly remembered by Wales fans. As such, the former Tottenham and Real Madrid forward paid tribute to his country’s supporters as he hung up his boots.
“To my Welsh family,” starts Bale’s Instagram message. “My decision to retire from International football has been, by far the hardest of my career.
“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 in to 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.
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“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 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.
“I shared a dressing room with boys that became brothers, and back room staff 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. Together stronger. Diolch [thank you].”
Bale is Wales’ leading scorer with 41 goals and no one has won more senior caps than him (111). He was part of the squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 – defying all expectations – and also represented his country at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.
At club level, Bale won a host of trophies in Spain and the United States, representing Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and Los Angeles FC. He lifted five Champions League titles during his time at Los Blancos and scored winning goals in two of those finals.