Gareth Bale’s shock retirement announcement came as a surprise to many when he publicised his decision via Instagram to hang up his boots aged 33.
The statement follows a rather disappointing World Cup appearance for the striker, who helped his Welsh side to reach the finals for the first time since 1958.
Wales seemed rather nervy in Qatar, with only one point acquired from a possible nine.
A heavy 3-0 defeat to England, an unprecedented last minute 2-0 loss to Iran and a modest 1-1 draw with USA led the side to an early flight home.
Despite this, it was rather staggering to hear that Bale has decided to call time on his career – both for club and country.
Some fans, especially those at Real Madrid, will have their own opinions on Bale, but it’s undeniable that he created some astounding moments on the pitch.
His first senior club appearance came in 2006 with Southampton and he was selected to join the Wales squad just one month later at the age of 16, where he featured in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago.
Those early days lead to high praise from a series of senior figures in the game, and Bale became notorious for his remarkable free-kicks and speed.
He was soon snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur who signed him in 2007 on a four-year deal where his career sky-rocketed.
Although he had plenty of significant goals and assists for Spurs in the early days, his most crucial performance came in October 2010 in a Champions League group tie against Inter Milan – an appearance so astonishing that he would become a worldwide superstar overnight.
Spurs would inevitably lose the tie 4-3, but a hat-trick for Bale in such a dominant and unperturbed manner left the 21-year old with a huge price tag on his head.
With 146 appearances under his belt for the London club and countless individual awards, it was Real Madrid who swooped in for the striker with a record transfer fee of €100.8 million ahead of the 2013-14 season.
Although a large amount of time was spent on the sidelines dealing with injury, Bale contributed to an incredible haul of silverware for the Spanish club.
His most memorable goal came in the 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool when he notched an overhead kick from the edge of the 18-yard box, before scoring a second to gift his side a 3-1 victory in Kiev.
Bale became a five-time Champions League winner, three times La Liga winner, and a three-time Club World Cup winner in what turned out to be a rather controversial time in his latter years in the capital, his time there tuning somewhat sour with several claims of him expressing his desire to leave the club, alongside failing to learn Spanish and pretending to be asleep on the bench during a game.
Following a short loan spell with Spurs in 2020, he moved to MLS side Los Angeles FC in June 2022 where he recorded two goals in 12 appearances.
Although his club career was a rather decorated one, his international career with Wales is something to be highly respected as a football fan.
Boasting 111 appearances, Bale is Wales’ most capped male player and captained his side into making history in Qatar, despite a muted performance.
Perhaps we can look back on Bale’s career as ‘what could have been’. A man who was so packed with talent but plagued by injury and controversy.
It begs the question of what Bale could have done with his future; a possible return to a lower league club in England or assisting Wales to another major tournament with EURO 2024 on the horizon. Plenty of opportunities that have been sadly wiped away.
A career that has been cut short, with so many talking points running through it – Bale will certainly be remembered, but perhaps not for the right reasons.