Why did Gareth Bale retire? Enigmatic ex-Real Madrid and Wales star stands as modern British great

Wales captain Gareth Bale announced his retirement from football on January 9, 2023 at the age of 33.

The former Tottenham and Real Madrid forward called time on a glittering career as one of the most decorated players of his generation.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have realised my dream of playing the sport I love,” said Bale, who wrapped up his club career with LAFC in the USA before representing Wales at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

“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.”

MORE: Everything to know about Gareth Bale: Trophies, net worth, wife and family of Wales star

Team Years Goals Matches
Wales 2006-2022 40 111
Southampton
(England)
2005-2007 5 45
Tottenham
(England)
2007-2013,
2020-2021
72 237
Real Madrid
(Spain)
2013-2020,
2021-2022
106 258
LAFC
(USA)
2022 3 14
TOTALS (17 years) 226 665

Why did Gareth Bale retire?

Although he didn’t expressly state it in his send-off message, injuries had increasingly sapped Bale over recent years and contributed to limit his playing time. 

A formidable wide attacker at his peak, blessed with nigh-on unplayable pace and power, Bale last started more than 20 league matches in a single campaign back in the 2018/19 season at Madrid — a turbulent one for Los Blancos as Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari were both dismissed as head coach.

Zinedine Zidane returned for a second spell in charge after Solari’s downfall, having overseen three consecutive Champions League successes.

Bale did not form part of his plans, which meant a loan return to Tottenham in 2020/21. Although he managed 11 Premier League goals, half of his appearances came from the bench in what proved to be his final season in England’s top flight.

He returned to Madrid to play a bit-part role in their 2021/22 commitments under another returning boss, Carlo Ancelotti, before a swansong in Los Angeles.

Once again, injuries blighted Bale and he started just twice for LAFC in 13 appearances. His insatiable appetite for the big occasion remained as he headed a last-minute equaliser against Philadelphia Union before a triumph on penalties in the MLS Cup final.

But according to Wales Online, Bale could also afford to retire early with a net worth reaching £119 million (€135 million) and business interests in bars, a mini-golf location, a whisky distillery, and a new golf venture with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy called TGL.

(England) (England) (Spain) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA) (USA)

Season Club Goals Matches
2005/06 Southampton 0 2
2006/07 Southampton 5 43
2007/08 Tottenham 3 12
2008/09 Tottenham 0 30
2009/10 Tottenham 3 34
2010/11 Tottenham 11 41
2011/12 Tottenham 13 42
2012/13 Tottenham 26 44
2013/14 Real Madrid 22 44
2014/15 Real Madrid 17 48
2015/16 Real Madrid 19 31
2016/17 Real Madrid 9 27
2017/18 Real Madrid 21 39
2018/19 Real Madrid 14 42
2019/20 Real Madrid 3 20
2020/21 Tottenham 16 34
2021/22 Real Madrid/
LAFC
4 21

How many Champions Leagues did Gareth Bale win?

That dramatic leveler for LAFC and his penalty against the United States at the World Cup to earn Wales their only point of the competition served as final flourishes for Bale.

At his peak, he was one of the most feared attackers on the planet, forming part of the celebrated ‘BBC’ forward line alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

After coming through the ranks as an attacking left-back at Southampton, Bale moved to Tottenham and flourished when deployed as an attacker by Harry Redknapp. He was twice named PFA Players’ Player of the Year after stunning Premier League campaigns in 2010/11 and 2012/13.

That paved the way for a then world-record £80 million move to Real Madrid in 2013 and the start of a record-breaking era.

Bale endured a difficult relationship with Madrid’s demanding fanbase at times, but he scored a sensational solo goal to down Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey final. A month later, he netted the game-breaking goal in a 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.

Two years later, Bale converted in a shootout when Madrid again beat their city rivals in the European showpiece at San Siro. Injuries, most notably a debilitating calf complaint, took a toll during 2016/17, meaning Bale was only a substitute in his native Cardiff as Madrid went back-to-back in a 4-1 win over Juventus.

He came off the bench again, the relationship with Zidane clearly strained by this point, when Madrid faced Liverpool in the 2018 final in Kyiv. It proved to be his finest hour as a spectacular overhead kick put Madrid ahead before he sealed a 3-1 win and a third-consecutive Champions League win with his second of the night.

Bale collected his fifth Champions League medal in 2021/22, although he was little more than a cheerleader under Ancelotti. He left Spain with three title triumphs in LaLiga and the same number of winners medals in the Club World Cup, having scored 106 times for the club.

Gareth Bale Champions League career

Season Club Stage
Reached
Matches Goals
2010/11 Tottenham Quarterfinals 9 4
2013/14 Real Madrid Champions 12 6
2014/15 Real Madrid Semifinals 10 2
2015/16 Real Madrid Champions 8 0
2016/17 Real Madrid Champions 8 2
2017/18 Real Madrid Champions 7 3
2018/19 Real Madrid Rd of 16 7 3
2019/20 Real Madrid Rd of 16 3 0
2021/22 Real Madrid Champions 2 0
TOTALS (9 editions) (5 titles) 66 20

How many times did Gareth Bale score for Wales?

For all those achievements in the Spanish capital, Bale will be defined in the eyes of many by his exploits for Wales.

There is a strong argument that he has risen above the likes of John Charles and Ryan Giggs to be considered his nation’s greatest-ever player. Certainly only former Juventus favourite Charles comes close to him when considering who might be British football’s finest export.

Wales had not featured in a major tournament since Charles’ era, where a teenaged Pele ended their interest in the 1958 World Cup at the quarter-final stage.

For Bale, getting Wales back among the world’s elite became a defining mission. He achieved it when they reached Euro 2016, with the generation of Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen succeeding where the likes of Giggs, Ian Rush and Neville Southall had come up short.

Drawn alongside Slovakia, England and Russia, Bale scored in each game as Wales finished top of their group. Northern Ireland were dispatched in a last-16 ‘Battle of Britain’ in Paris before a victory for the ages as Chris Coleman’s side overcame a talent-stacked Belgium 3-1.

Portugal and his Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo proved a bridge too far for Bale and Wales in the semifinals, but sporting immortality in their homeland was secured.

The Republic of Ireland pipped them to a place at the 2018 World Cup, but Wales reached the delayed Euro championship in 2021. Injury-ravaged by this point, Bale still managed to rouse himself and inspire a brilliant 2-0 win over Turkey that again sealed progress to the knockout stages.

Rob Page’s team could not do likewise at the World Cup as Bale and his generation ran out of road against Iran and England. He calls time on probably the finest Wales career of all time with 111 caps and 41 goals — both records — having debuted at in 2006 as a 16-year-old.

“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.”

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