Gareth Bale deserves statue after ‘phenomenal’ career – Wales boss Rob Page

Gareth Bale deserves a statue built in his honour, according to Wales manager Rob Page.

Bale, a five-time Champions League winner at Real Madrid, announced his retirement on Monday after winning 111 caps and scoring 41 goals for his country – two Wales men’s team records.

The 33-year-old’s decision came after Wales’ disappointing performance at the World Cup when Page’s team failed to get out of their group.

Bale struggled in Qatar due to a lack of match fitness, but did score his final Wales goal from the penalty spot in a 1-1 draw with the United States.

Rugby great Gareth Edwards has a statue to mark his achievements in Cardiff – and Page says he would back a similar tribute to Bale, possibly at the Cardiff City Stadium where some of the former Wales captain’s greatest football moments happened.

“He’s been such a legend and an icon for all the children, I fully support that absolutely,” said Page.

“What a career that man has had. It’s phenomenal. But it’s not just the football team, it’s what he’s done for the country.

“He’s helped us qualify for the World Cup, which has raised our profile as a country. He has put us on the map globally.

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“From a cultural point of view, as well as a football point of view, everybody from Wales should be very proud of him.”

Bale contacted Page on Sunday to tell him that he was retiring from football completely, having made a similar call to his MLS club Los Angeles FC.

Page agreed with the decision – “he’s at a stage of life he had achieved everything he wanted to” – and spent Monday watching a montage of Bale’s greatest goals and moments.

He now hopes Bale remains in the Wales set-up in some capacity, with talks planned “in the next few weeks” over what that might entail.

Wales v Iran – FIFA World Cup 2022 – Group B – Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
Manager Rob Page says Gareth Bale was not afraid to tell people where his football priorities laid (Nick Potts/PA)

Page said: “He was really passionate about his country and not afraid to tell people of the pecking order of where he was with golf, club football and playing for Wales.

“When you’ve got somebody of Gareth’s stature, what he’s done for Wales, the impact he can have – even being in the changing room being around the players – I’ve got to take advantage of that.

“He’s interested to do it, and I would like to keep him involved.

“There might have already been discussions before this about him staying involved in some capacity.

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“But the important thing right now is to celebrate his career and what he’s done for us as a nation.”

On Bale’s decision to retire, Page added: “It did came as a surprise at that moment.

“I wasn’t expecting that from him in that phone call, but if you take a step back and strip the emotions out of it I understand why he’s done it. To finish at the top, I get.

“It’s sad and quite emotional knowing that Gareth won’t pull on a pair of boots again for Wales.

“But on the flip side it gives an opportunity for Brennan Johnson, who I’ve used as an example, to nail down that position.”

Bale’s one-time manager at Real Madrid, Julen Lopetegui, is now in charge of Wolves and offered an alternative view of the Welshman’s achievements.

Julen Lopetegui
Julen Lopetegui, pictured, has been talking about Bale (David Davies/PA)

“I think he is one of the players with the better strengths that I have seen,” said Lopetegui, who was Real boss for less than four months in 2018.

“Maybe he doesn’t take advantage of these strengths.

“It was a pity in my opinion.”