On Monday, Gareth Bale, the captain of Wales and a player for Los Angeles FC, announced his decision to retire from all club and international football with immediate effect.

Inspiring Wales to qualify for two European Championships and a first World Cup since 1958, Bale ended one of the most illustrious careers in British football history. He also won five Champions League titles in nine years at Real Madrid between 2013 and 2022.

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The former Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid player wrote in his post: “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. 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 is widely regarded as one of the greatest Welsh footballers of all time as well as one of the best wingers of his generation.

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He received the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 2011 and 2013 and was included in the UEFA Team of the Year. He was also recognised in 2013 as the Premier League Player of the Season, the FWA Footballer of the Year, and the PFA Young Player of the Year. Between 2011 and 2013, he was nominated for the PFA Team of the Year three times in a row.

After a Champions League group stage match against Inter Milan on 2 November 2010, teammate Rafael van der Vaart said, “Everyone is scared of him [Bale]. Maicon is one of the best defenders in the world, and he’s killed him.”

Bale’s performance was praised by El Mundo, which wrote:  “Bale combines the height and build of an 800-metre runner like Steve Ovett with the acceleration and directness of a rugby winger like Bryan Habana. And, when he gets to the byline, he delivers curling crosses like a Brazilian”

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Bale is regarded by his Wales teammates as a pivotal, inspirational, and uplifting figure for the squad.  When describing Bale’s good impact on the team’s morale and performance, Welsh international Neil Taylor remarked, “There’s a belief about the team when he’s in it. He makes everyone around him play better.”

Bale received recognition from the media for his decisive performances in significant games while he was a player for Real Madrid. Despite his talent and successes, Bale’s popularity with the club’s supporters declined during his final years with the team because they felt he was inconsistent and uncommitted.

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Furthermore, despite his success and high level of performance in his first few seasons with the club, several analysts had accused him of not living up to his potential because of his injury issues, particularly after his perceived downturn in his later seasons with Real Madrid.