Gareth Bale leaves fans stunned with shock retirement from football
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Football legend Gareth Bale has announced he will retire from football effective immediately.
The 33-year-old Los Angeles Football Club forward, who has featured on lineups for Southampton, Spurs and Real Madrid, dropped the massive bombshell on social media.
He wrote: "After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football."
Bale, who was Wales' star player for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, also issued a statement to thank his own countrymen for their support throughout his career.
"My decision to retire from international football has been, by far, the hardest of my career," Bale said.
"How do I describe what being a part of this country and team means to me? How do I articulate the impact it has had on my life? How do I put it into words the way I felt, every single time I put on that Welsh shirt?"
He added: "My answer is that I couldn't possibly do any of those things justice, simply with words. But I know that every person involved in Welsh football, feels the magic, and is impacted in such a powerful and unique way, so I know you feel what I feel, without using any words at all."
Generational talent ✨— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) January 9, 2023
One of our own 😇 pic.twitter.com/Jv3dB7wEsz
In total, the legendary left-back turned forward claimed 111 caps for Wales, shone bright like a diamond at the Euros in 2016 and at the recent World Cup in Qatar.
He's also Wales' record goalscorer, with his ball sailing into the net 41 times for his home country.
The Cardiff native is widely considered to be the best Welsh player of all time.
"The fortune of being Welsh and being selected to play for and captain Wales, has given me something incomparable to anything else I’ve experienced," he said.
"Thank you to every one of you for being on this journey with me."
He said, finally: "So for now I am stepping back, but not away from the team that lives in me and runs through my veins. After all, the dragon on my shirt is all I need."
Tributes have been rolling in for the Welsh player in the hours after his massive reveal, with Spurs' Son Heung-min heaping praise on the football stalwart.
"A legend of Spurs and a legend of football. Congratulations on an amazing career Gareth Bale! Wishing you the best luck in your next chapter, mate," the Tottenham forward said.
Welsh Netball and football star Nia Jones had a few choice words for the departing icon.
Gareth Bale. Two words you say on holiday & people immediately know where you’re from.— Nia Jones (@niajones92) January 9, 2023
Athletic freak, mindset monster, @Cymru ‘s undisputed 🐐. The ability to produce moments of magic when all hope had wilted, time and time again, for me make him the best Welsh sportsman ever. pic.twitter.com/nYsnxB4hj2
"'Gareth Bale'. Two words you say on holiday & people immediately know where you’re from," she said.
"Athletic freak, mindset monster, Wales' undisputed GOAT. The ability to produce moments of magic when all hope had wilted, time and time again, for me make him the best Welsh sportsman ever."
Fans also left well wishes under his social media posts and broken heart emojis.
One said: "Shed a tear. Thank you for everything, Captain."
Another added: "Great inspiration on the field. Best wishes for the future and continue to inspire the future generations of Welsh footballers."