Bale, who spent last season at LAFC, was part of Wales' squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar; the Welshman won five Champions League titles and La Liga three times at Real Madrid and is considered one of Britain's greatest-ever football exports
Tuesday 10 January 2023 06:31, UK
Gareth Bale has retired from professional football aged 33.
The former Tottenham and Real Madrid forward, who spent last season at LAFC in MLS, was part of Wales' squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Bale has described the decision to quit international football as "by far the hardest of my career".
"My journey on the international stage is one that has changed not only my life, but who l am," he added.
The Welshman won five Champions League titles and LaLiga three times at Real Madrid and is considered one of Britain's greatest-ever football exports.
Bale wrote on social media: "After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football.
"I feel incredibly fortunate to have realised my dream of playing the sport I love. It has truly given me some of the best moments of my life. The highest of highs over 17 seasons, that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.
"From my very first touch at Southampton to my last with LAFC and everything in between, shaped a club career that I have an immense pride and gratitude for. Playing for and captaining my country 111 times has truly been a dream come true.
"To show my gratitude to all of those that have played their part along this journey, feels like an impossibility. I feel indebted to many people for helping to change my life and shape my career in a way I couldn't have ever dreamed of when I first started out at nine years old.
"To my previous clubs, Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and finally LAFC. All of my previous managers and coaches, back room staff, team mates, all the dedicated fans, my agents, my amazing friends and family, the impact you have had is immeasurable.
"My parents and my sister, without your dedication in those early days, without such a strong foundation, I wouldn't be writing this statement right now, so thank you for putting me on this path and for your unwavering support.
"My wife and my children, your love and support has carried me through. Right beside me for all the highs and lows, keeping me grounded along the way. You inspire me to be better, and to make you proud.
"So, I move on with anticipation to the next stage of my life. A time of change and transition, an opportunity for a new adventure."
Bale added: "To my Welsh family,
"My decision to retire from International football has been, by far the hardest of my career.
"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 in to words the way I felt, every single time I put on that Welsh shirt? 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.
"My journey on the international stage is one that has changed not only my life but who I am. 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. I am honoured and humbled to have been able to play a part in the history of this incredible country, to have felt the support and passion of the red wall, and together have been to unexpected and amazing places.
"I shared a dressing room with boys that became brothers, and back room staff that became family, I played for the most incredible managers, and felt the undying support and love from the most dedicated fans in the world. Thank you to every one of you for being on this journey with me.
"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.
"Together stronger, Diolch."
Real Madrid have expressed their "affection and love for a great legend" of their club following the retirement of Bale.
It read: "Real Madrid want to show their thanks, admiration and love for a great legend of our club and world football.
"Gareth Bale was part of our team in one of the most successful eras in our history and will represent forever many of the brightest moments of the past decade.
"His figure will always be linked to the history and legend of our club. Lots of luck, Gareth, and our best wishes to you and your family."
Former Wales striker Robert Earnshaw speaking to Sky Sports News:
"I'm completely shocked, really, really shocked at the news. I think one year ago I was one who probably said he might be thinking of retiring and it might be in the back of his mind. I know it was, but I still didn't think it was actually going to happen, especially now that he has moved to LA over the last few months.
"But he did what he was supposed to do, win trophies, do well and inspire a team. He went and won the MLS, but I actually thought he was going to stay, so I'm very, very surprised."
111 - Record number of caps for Wales' men's national team.
41 - A national men's team goal-scoring record, eclipsing the previous best of 28 by Ian Rush.
85 - Real Madrid made Bale the most expensive player in world football when they signed him from Tottenham for £85.3million in September 2013.
5 - Champions League titles at Real Madrid.
106 - Goals scored at Real Madrid.
4 - Clubs Bale played for: Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and Los Angeles FC.
16 - Bale was 16 years and 315 days old when he became the youngest player to play for his country on May 27, 2006. Harry Wilson claimed the record in October 2013 when he played against Belgium at the age of 16 years and 207 days.
17 - Became Wales' youngest ever goal scorer on October 7, 2006 - scoring against Slovakia in a Euro 2008 qualifier with a trademark free-kick.
2 - First Wales player to score two international hat-tricks - against China in March 2018 and Belarus in September 2021.
7 - Goals in Euro 2016 qualifying as Wales ended a 58-year wait to play at a major tournament.
3 - Goals against England, Slovakia and Russia at Euro 2016. In doing so, he became the first player to score in all three group games at the Euros since Milan Baros and Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004.
2 - Free-kicks. Deadly set-pieces at Euro 2016 saw Bale become the first player to score two free-kicks at a European Championship since Germany's Thomas Hassler in 1992.
58 - Became the first Wales player to score at a major international tournament for 58 years with his swerving free-kick against Slovakia.
64 - Bale became the first Wales player to score at a World Cup for 64 years in Qatar. The previous goal had been scored by Terry Medwin against Hungary at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.