Welsh winger Gareth Bale, regarded as one of the greatest wingers of his generation, announced his retirement from football on January 9, 2023, at the age of 33, calling time on a phenomenal 17-year career in the sport.
The former Real Madrid midfielder shared two separate posts on his social media handles to announce his decision, with the second one being a special token of appreciation for his countrymen.
Here’s a sneak peek into the impressive trajectory of his wonderful career.
Southampton FC (2006-07)
Bale, whose ability was first spotted by Southampton FC during a school football tournament, made his debut for the club as a 16-year-old in April 2006 while the Saints were in the second tier of the English football pyramid.
Beginning his career as a left-back, he quickly developed a reputation of being a ‘free-kick specialist’ thanks to a few goals from set-pieces in his debut season itself.
Tottenham Hotspur (2007–2013)
Destined for success based on the early exploits of his career, the Welshman earned a move to Tottenham Hotspur in May 2007, where he got his first breakthrough and taste of Premier League football.
After a brief period on the sidelines due to persistent injuries, Bale’s Spurs stint finally took off in the 2008-09 season where he made 30 appearances across all competitions.
Despite not getting on the scoresheet in the campaign, a player of Bale’s stature did not take much time to settle in the English top flight and showed early signs of what was to follow with marauding runs forward from the left-back slot.
Having transitioned to the left-wing position from his initial left-back role with the help of then Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, Bale became one of the most feared and pacey wingers of all time, terrorising opposition defences with his mazy runs.
In his seven-year stay at White Hart Lane, he formed attacking partnerships with the likes of Jermain Defoe, Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon.
The Welshman netted his last Premier League goal of his first spell with Spurs in the most typical fashion by planting a long-range effort into the top-left corner against Sunderland on May 19, 2013.
Despite winning several individual accolades with Spurs, Bale’s could add only one trophy to his cabinet, which was the EFL Cup 2007-08 triumph.
Real Madrid (2013–2022)
Following his exponential development as a player, Real Madrid broke the bank to acquire his services, paying a reported £85 million, the then-transfer record for a professional footballer.
Unfortunately, injuries restricted Bale to the treatment table in the first few months at the Santiago Bernabeu. He scored his first goal for the Galacticos on his debut against Villareal in a 2-2 draw away from home in September 2013.
Over the years, the Welsh winger became a regular in the matchday squads even though his tenure was ravaged by recurring injuries.
Among a pool of significant moments for Bale, a couple of stunning goals stand out from his almost decade-long stay with the Spanish giants.
The first was his goal against rivals FC Barcelona in the 2013-14 Copa del Rey final.
With the game level at 1-1, Bale channelled his inner Usain Bolt and made a breathtaking run (clocked at 21.54mph) from inside his own half to net a fantastic goal and seal the title in the 85th minute to bag his first silverware with his new club.
Four seasons later in the 2017-18 campaign, he scored one of the most extraordinary goals in the history of the Champions League.
Coming on as a substitute, Bale netted a sensational overhead kick with his deadly left foot against Liverpool in the final to help his team clinch a third consecutive UCL trophy.
Return to Tottenham Hotspur and Los Angeles FC (2020-2022)
In 2020, Following a trophy-laden spell in the Spanish capital, Bale made a fairytale return to the club.
He scored a total of 16 goals in 31 appearances, including a hat-trick against Sheffield United in May 2020.
Bale then plied his trade for the MLS side Los Angeles FC in the final year of his career, scoring two goals in 12 appearances.
Widely considered among the top Welshmen to grace the game of football, Bale scored 41 goals in 111 appearances to become the leading goal-scorer for his country. He was named Welsh Footballer of the Year a record six times.
Moreover, his major contributions include qualification for the World Cup 2022, where Wales played the tournament for the first time in 64 years.
He also led his country to their first-ever appearance in the Euro Championships in 2016, where they finished as semi-finalists.
All-in-all, Gareth Bale’s splendid career surely features among the most inspirational footballing stories. He could be considered an exceptional talent, who sent shivers down the spines of the opposition defences in his quest to achieve greatness.
Gareth Bale's club honours
|2016-17, 2019-20, 2021-22
|Copa del Rey
|Spanish Super Cup
|UEFA Champions League
|2013-14, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2021-22
|UEFA Super Cup
|2014, 2016, 2017
|FIFA Club World Cup
|2014, 2016, 2017, 2018
|Los Angeles FC
Photo credit: Alamy