Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Gareth Bale retires: San Siro statement, Wales World Cup among best moments

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 9 Jan 2023

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Gareth Bale has brought an end to an illustrious playing career after announcing his retirement at the age of 33.

The forward hangs up his boots with a record of 226 goals in 664 games from spells with Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Los Angeles FC and on the international stage with Wales.

Initially a left-back, Bale was utilised further forward by Harry Redknapp at Spurs which sparked the start of an incredible transformation of the player – who would go on to make a significant impression at both club and international level.

Here, we’ve taken a look back at some of the finest moments from Bale’s career.

San Siro statement

On October 20, 2010, Bale gave Tottenham fans memories to last a lifetime with a stunning hat-trick in a Champions League group stage fixture against Inter at San Siro in a year that marked Spurs’ first-ever involvement in the competition.

Four goals down at half-time and down to 10 men, Bale enjoyed a meteoric display in the second period that, despite Spurs losing 4-3, still stands as one of the greatest individual performances in the competition’s history.

A hat-trick saw the then 21-year-old display his raw pace and strength, tormenting opposing players Maicon and Javier Zanetti, propelling him into stardom and setting the path for a remarkable career.

World record transfer & Copa del Rey Clasico

A six-year spell in north London came to a close in 2013, when Real Madrid splashed a then world record fee of €100.8 million (£85.1m), a figure that surpassed the previous record set by Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Santiago Bernabeu from Manchester United.

Scoring on his debut against Villarreal, the first half of Bale’s inaugural season in Spain was plagued by injuries and came alongside some media criticism – something that he would have to endure throughout the majority of his spell with Los Blancos.

A starring moment came in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, however, outsprinting Marc Barta and even exiting the field on his way to goal before tucking home his first El Clasico strike.

Champions League glories

Just over a month after scoring in the Copa del Rey final, Bale was at it again in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid – putting his team ahead in the 110th minute of an eventual 4-1 victory to seal Madrid’s 10th European Cup, the fabled La Decima.

In 2015-16, Bale won the Champions League for a second time, Atletico on the receiving end yet again, retaining the trophy the following season against Juventus in his home city of Cardiff, and winning a third in a row in 2017-18, where Bale added to his incredible highlight reel.

Against Liverpool in Kyiv, Bale scored an overhead kick from the edge of the 18-yard box to give Madrid a 2-1 advantage, then doubling his tally for the game with a speculative 30-yard effort that goalkeeper Loris Karius fumbled into the net.

Euro semi-finalists

While criticism at club level with Madrid was rife, Bale continued to be the leading man on the international stage for Wales and excelled for his nation at Euro 2016, the first time they had featured at the tournament.

Bale scored in all three of Wales’ group-stage matches against Slovakia, England and Russia as Chris Coleman’s side topped the group, with victories against Northern Ireland and Belgium to follow in the knockout stage.

An incredible tournament came to a close in the semi-finals with a 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Portugal but Wales returned five years later at the rearranged Euro 2020, where they reached the last 16.

MLS Cup victory

Bale’s Madrid career ended in June 2022, fresh from picking up a fifth Champions League victory, as he completed a move to Major League Soccer to join Los Angeles FC.

LAFC won the Supporter’s Shield in the regular season, though Bale was mostly unused, but he made his impact in the MLS Cup as his side won the title for the first time, having joined the league in 2017.

Bale came off the bench to score in the 128th minute against Philadelphia Union, sending the contest to a penalty shoot-out that LAFC subsequently won.

World Cup

After a 64-year absence, Wales returned to the World Cup stage after qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Qatar – which would prove to be Bale’s last involvement as a player for either club or country.

An 82nd-minute penalty against the United States saw Bale score on his tournament debut as Wales begun the group stage with a point, but two stoppage-time goals in the second game gave Iran a shock victory.

Wales’ campaign came to an early end with a 3-0 defeat to England in the final group match, marking a disappointing end to Bale’s international career.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SoccerNews

Soccernews.com is news blog for soccer with comprehensive coverage of all the major leagues in Europe, as well as MLS in the United States. In addition we offer breaking news for transfers and transfer rumors, ticket sales, betting tips and offers, match previews, and in-depth editorials.

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