Gareth Bale could retire from club football at the end of next season but continue playing for Wales, according to a report.
Once the most expensive footballer in the world, things have faded in recent years for Bale. He fell out of favour at Real Madrid, before returning to Tottenham on loan for the 2020-21 season. Despite the initial excitement about his return, his spell back in north London was one of ups and downs.
His agent has ruled out the prospect of a permanent move to Tottenham. Instead, he will return to Real for the final year of his contract at the Bernabeu.
Whether the return of Carlo Ancelotti as coach in place of Zinedine Zidane will improve his chances of regular gametime there is unclear. Bale has never been the most popular player in Madrid, despite his contributions to a successful period in their glittering history.
Now, the Daily Mirror believe they know Bale’s plans. The newspaper claims he will see the season out with Madrid before retiring from club football.
He reportedly has no desire to find a new club after Real inevitably release him in 2022. But he will continue to receive his huge wages for the next 12 months.
There is a twist, though, as Bale could continue playing for Wales after he retires from club football. He was famously once given a flag reading: ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.’ While it was clearly a tongue in cheek gesture from his international fans, there may be some element of truth to the joke.
If Wales qualify for the 2022 World Cup, Bale could declare himself available despite the prospect of his club career having ended by then. The competition will take place in Qatar between November and December next year, a few months after his Madrid contract expires.
All Wales need to do to qualify for it is either win their group, come second and win a play-off. Even if they fail to reach those places, they could win a different play-off for winners of Nations League groups.
After Wales were eliminated from Euro 2020, Bale walked away from a question about whether he had played his last game for his country. Time for reflection was necessary and it seems he will stick to his original vow of playing for Wales until the day he retires.
In fact, he could end up doing so beyond then.
Bale in conversation as ‘one of the best ever British players’
Former Wales teammate Ashley Williams recently told us that Bale could be one of Britain’s best ever players.
“I think he is in conversation as one of the greatest British players ever,” declared Williams, in an exclusive interview with TEAMtalk.
“Just on the basis of what he has won at Real Madrid and his contribution to those successes in Champions League finals, scoring some vital goals, you have to say there are few who have achieved more.
“Maybe it has not gone as well for him over the last couple of years. But that is normal for most footballers, even players who have reached Gareth’s level.
“Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who have managed to reach that elite level and stay there year after year and what we have seen from Gareth is more normal for a player of his age.
“He has set the bar so high. He was doing something incredible every single week when he was in his final season at Tottenham. But that was never going to happen at this stage of his career.
“What he needed to do was find where he fitted in at Tottenham and by the end of it, I feel like he did that.
“I also feel like he has adapted his game a little. He is not as athletic as he used to be; he looks to take up better positions and influence the game in different ways.”