Gareth Bale, 33, announces retirement from football after captaining Wales at World Cup

 (PA)
(PA)

Gareth Bale has announced his retirement from football “with immediate effect”.

The Wales captain bows out of the game having led his country out at the World Cup in Qatar, scoring against the United States before their exit at the group stage.

It had long been rumoured that the 33-year-old would make a decision on his future after the tournament and, on Monday, he released a heartfelt statement confirming he was hanging up his boots.

He wrote: “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. The highest of highs over 17 seasons, that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.

In Pictures | Gareth Bale

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
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(AP)
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(Action Images)
(Action Images)
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Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur during the pre-season friendly match between St. Patrick's Athletic & Tottenham Hotspur at Richmond Park on July 12, 2007 in Dublin, Ireland (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur during the pre-season friendly match between St. Patrick's Athletic & Tottenham Hotspur at Richmond Park on July 12, 2007 in Dublin, Ireland (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale is seen leaving London Luton Airport on 18 September 2020. Gareth Bale is expected to complete his return to Tottenham Hotspur (Action Images via Reuters)
Gareth Bale is seen leaving London Luton Airport on 18 September 2020. Gareth Bale is expected to complete his return to Tottenham Hotspur (Action Images via Reuters)
Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Wales and Croatia at Cardiff City Stadium (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Wales and Croatia at Cardiff City Stadium (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale of Real Madrid shoots and scores his side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on May 26, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale of Real Madrid shoots and scores his side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on May 26, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine (Getty Images)

“From my very first touch at Southampton to my last with LAFC and everything in between, shaped a club career that I have an immense pride and gratitude for. Playing for and captaining my country 111 times has truly been a dream come true.”

Bale’s trophy record has entered him into the discussion for the greatest British footballer of all time, having broken through at Southampton as a teenager before joining Tottenham.

Initially, his Spurs stint did not go to plan as he failed to win any of his first 24 Premier League games for the capital club, a run which spanned two years and saw him linked with a cheap move away.

But Bale hit form with emphatic fashion from 2011 onwards, scoring 26 goals in his final season at Tottenham before a £90million world-record move to Real Madrid.

The winger formed part of the famed ‘BBC’ strikeforce alongside Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, hitting 106 goals in 258 Madrid appearances while scooping five Champions League titles, three LaLiga crowns and a Copa del Rey.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Bale’s overhead kick in the 2018 final victory over Liverpool went down in history as one of the greatest goals scored on such a stage.

Injury plagued his final years in Madrid before a loan return to Spurs and one last move to LAFC, for whom he scored a memorable 128th-minute equaliser in the MLS Cup final before lifting the trophy via a penalty shootout.

As Bale’s career wore on, his talismanic role for Wales only grew as he helped guide them to two European Championship campaigns and a first World Cup outing in 64 years.

A separate statement on his international retirement read: “My decision to retire from International football has been, by far the hardest of my career.

“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.”