Former Real Madrid star and Wales legend Gareth Bale has announced his retirement from club football at the age of 33.
The four-times Champion’s League winner, who Real Madrid made the most expensive player in the world in 2013, has ended his 12-month contract with Los Angeles FC after six months.
Bale was fresh off the back of leading Wales to their first World Cup since 1958, having run down his contract with Real Madrid in the summer.
The Cardiff native rose to prominence in the Premier League as a wing wizard for Tottenham Hotspurs, terrorising full-backs and scoring screamers – most prominently ending the career of Brazilian stalwart Maicon in a 4-3 Champion’s League defeat against Inter Milan in 2011.
His annus mirabilis was the 2012-2013 season, in which he scored 23 goals from the wing – including many match winners – and won both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year.
That season earned him a world-record €100 million move to Spanish titans Real Madrid at the age of 24.
He would go on to win three La Liga’s, five Champions Leagues – which included the monumental feat of three in a row – as well as three Supercups.
He scored 76 goals in 181 appearances for Madrid over nine seasons – although some were blighted by injury, fall outs with coach Zinedine Zidane and, later on, loan spells.
However, despite scoring vital goals in Champions League and Supercup finals, he often had the Madrid faithful on his back.
This was never less so than when he was seen celebrating Wales’ qualification for Euro 2020 with a flag that read ‘Wales, gold, Madrid, in that order’.
Although it irked those back in Madrid, it was in fact a reference to a quote from Real Madrid sporting director Pedja Mijatovic in which he gave his impression of Bale’s priorities, rather than the winger’s own statement.
He returned for a brief loan spell at Spurs, the club that made his star in 2020-21, but it was clear by this point that he had lost the explosive pace and power that had made him such a world beater just a few years previously.
Throughout his career, he scored 141 goals in 394 club games and 41 goals in 111 games for his country Wales.
Bale thanked his friends, family, coaches and former clubs on his Twitter page.
“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,” he wrote.
“The highest of highs over 17 seasons, that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.”