Bale retirement comes at 'right time' but Wales boss Page hopeful of off-field return

By Sports Desk January 10, 2023

Gareth Bale's decision to retire from professional football comes at the "right time", according to Wales manager Rob Page.

Bale announced on Monday he had decided to call time on a glorious career, having finally been able to represent his country at the World Cup.

Once the most expensive player of all time when he made the move to Real Madrid from Tottenham, Bale won everything possible during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu, including five Champions League titles – only Paco Gento (six) has more (Champions League/European Cup).

While some might have been surprised by Bale's decision given he is still only 33, his decline over the past few years – partly due to injuries – has been significant, as evidenced by his MLS struggles with Los Angeles FC and a lack of impact for Wales at Qatar 2022.

Page was not among those caught off guard by the news.

"Gareth messaged to say he needed a conversation," Page told BBC Radio Wales.

"I knew it was something significant, but when he announced it to me, it didn't come as a complete surprise.

"I told him I think it's the right time to bow out. You've just scored in a World Cup and got everything on your CV, what you've done for this country is unbelievable."

Wales' next fixtures are at the end of March when they face Croatia and Latvia to begin their Euro 2024 qualification campaign.

Page had planned to include Bale in his squad, though he recognised the World Cup did highlight certain inadequacies.

"He would have had a part to play," Page continued. "The roles might have changed slightly. Would he be able to play 90 minutes back to back?

"Lessons have been learned from Qatar, the athleticism every team had out there. It's too big an ask probably for him, he might have been an impact player coming off the bench.

"There's a mixture of emotions for me. I'm excited now because it's an opportunity to get some of the young ones through – players like Brennan Johnson to take the opportunity and step up to the plate – and get the next Gareth Bale.

"But there's also a hint of sadness because it's the last time we'll see Gareth Bale putting a pair of boots on for Wales."

But that is not to say Bale will be gone for good.

It remains to be seen what he goes on to do now he is not playing, but Page is eager to get Bale involved in the Wales setup again.

"I would love him still to be involved in some capacity, what that role is don't know yet," he said.

"It's a big adjustment for him, going into a normalish life, but we'll have another conversation with him in a few weeks.

"We'll make a plan moving forward because he's got so much to offer in a changing room and hotel environment.

"His presence is something I would be really keen on, to keep him involved, but I'll leave it up to Gareth and what suits him and his family.

"You've seen Belgium do it with Thierry Henry. Ex-players stepping up, whether it's a coaching role, an ambassadorial role, or being part of a committee making decisions.

"I'm sure the FAW [Football Association of Wales] would also be keen to keep Gareth involved in some capacity."

Related items

  • Mbappe eyes completing international treble with France at Euro 2024 Mbappe eyes completing international treble with France at Euro 2024

    Kylian Mbappe hopes to avoid any hangover from World Cup disappointment as the France forward searches for his elusive final international crown at Euro 2024.

    The Real Madrid-bound forward scored a hat-trick in the final of FIFA's global tournament in 2022, though that was not enough to stop Argentina from winning on penalties in Saudi Arabia.

    Another major tournament is on the horizon as the European Championship awaits in Germany, where Didier Deschamps' side rank as the favourites alongside Gareth Southgate's England.

    Euros success is the only glory missing from Mbappe's glittering resume, having won the World Cup in 2018 and the Nations League as well, though the 25-year-old hopes to end that this time around.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain told CNN Sport: "I want to win the Euros. I have to be honest. I won the World Cup. I won the Nations League.

    "That's the only one that missed me with the national team after I did everything with the national team. I really want to win this.

    "My first competition as captain, so it's really important for me and it's always important for the country and we want them to be proud of us.

    "[It's] another opportunity to write the history of my country."

    Mbappe endured a woeful tournament at Euro 2020, failing to score from chances amounting to 1.7 xG in four games, before missing the vital penalty as France lost to Switzerland in a last-16 shoot-out.

    Coming into this tournament on the back of a 44-goal season with PSG and with his long-term future decided, few would back a repeat from Madrid's newest Galactico. 

    France open their group-stage campaign against Austria on Monday before facing the Netherlands and Austria in a testing pool.

    Mbappe believes Les Bleus can take the learnings from the last World Cup into their next quest for the European crown.

    "I think we have to move forward," the world-class forward added. "Of course, we were hurt, to see that you're close to something...

    "Close to the back-to-back. Something amazing. Something historic. Everybody loved the game except for us.

    "We didn't like that, but it's part of the game. Now, when I watch the video of the game, I watch with a smile because it's part of the history and we know what we have to do if we go again in the final.

    "We have to play all the game and have no reaction."

  • Messi fears impending retirement as Argentina great plans to end career in Miami Messi fears impending retirement as Argentina great plans to end career in Miami

    Lionel Messi knows his illustrious career is running out of time as the Argentina great suggested his club playing days will end with Inter Miami.

    The Barcelona legend completed a switch to MLS side Miami last year after two decades of European football with the Blaugrana and Paris Saint-Germain.

    As Messi starts to prepare for Argentina's Copa America defence this month, retirement remains a pertinent question for the global superstar.

    The 36-year-old, speaking to ESPN, acknowledged Miami will likely "be my last club" as the fear sets in over ending his playing career sooner rather than later.

    "I've done this all of my life; I love playing ball," the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner said on Wednesday. 

    "I enjoy the practices and the day-to-day, the games. There's a bit of fear that it's all ending. It's always there. It was a difficult step leaving Europe to come here [Miami].

    "The fact we won the World Cup helped, it helped a lot, to see things in another way. But I try not to think about it, I try to enjoy it.

    "I do that more now because I'm aware that there's not a lot of time left. So I have a good time with the club, being lucky to have good team-mates and friends at my side.

    "I enjoy my time with the national team, where I also have good friends, too, and a lot. I enjoy those small details that I know I'll miss when I stop playing."

    Messi is Barcelona's all-time top scorer with 672 goals, as well as lifting four Champions League trophies amid a glittering career.

    Yet the ageing forward insists World Cup glory in 2022 remains his crowning moment, following in the footsteps of late Albiceleste great Diego Maradona.

    "Obviously, I was sad that he couldn't experience what we experienced [winning the 2022 World Cup], because I know what he felt for the national team and what he would say about Argentina being world champion again," he added.

    "We went through a World Cup together which aside from the result was an impressive experience, going through that day-to-day with him, how happy he was, seeing him enjoy being the manager.

    "So I try to remember all the good times that we had together. I know that he loved me a lot, and I loved him, despite what was said in the media.

    "The reality is we had a lot of affection for each other, and since he met me he was always supportive and wanted the best for me.

    "It was a shame that he couldn't live to experience it like the rest of the country did."

  • 'Stranger things have happened' says Sctotland's Morgan on potential Germany upset 'Stranger things have happened' says Sctotland's Morgan on potential Germany upset

    Lewis Morgan believes Scotland can surprise Germany ahead of their Euro 2024 opener against the hosts this Friday. 

    Steve Clarke's side travel to Munich in search of their first victory over their opponents since 1999, having failed to beat Die Mannschaft in their previous four encounters.

    The New York Red Bulls winger was a late arrival in Scotland's provisional squad after it was announced Ben Doak had to withdraw through injury, and made it into the travelling group of 26. 

    Morgan ended his six-year absence from the international stage with a substitute appearance in a 2-2 draw against Finland at Hampden Park last week to earn his third cap for his country, 2,193 days since his last. 

    The 27-year-old has scored nine goals in 16 MLS appearances so far this season in the Eastern Conference, and believes his side have every chance of starting their Group A campaign with a victory. 

    "Absolutely, stranger things have happened in football," Morgan said about the possibility of Scotland upsetting the host nation.

    "We've got a really, really talented squad here, a good group of players playing at the highest level in world football.

    "There's no reason why we can't go there and get something, but we can only do that if we give the best version of ourselves and stick to the game plan."

    Following Friday's fixture against Germany, the Scots will face Switzerland before concluding their group campaign in Stuttgart against Hungary, with the hopes of reaching the knockout stages of an international competition for the first time in their history. 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.