Gareth Bale has long been a Wales legend but etched his name into the history books when he scored the only goal in the play-off final against Ukraine to send the national team through to their first World Cup since 1958. After 16 years of featuring for Wales, Bale made his World Cup debut in their opener against USA last Monday - scoring a late penalty to clinch their first point.
Following defeat to Iran on Friday, Wales will now have to beat England this evening to have any chance of remaining in the competition. While The Dragons face an early exit, Bale will still be seen as the leader in one of Wales’ greatest ever squads - alongside the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Daniel James.
Fans will be aware that they are coming to the end of an era, four years after reaching the Euro 2016 semi-finals, as their captain approaches his 34rd birthday next summer. The Los Angeles FC forward will be nearing 40 by the time the next World Cup comes around and it seems highly likely that Bale won’t be there to help them reach another major tournament by then.
Ahead of Wales’ final group fixture against rivals England, Bale spoke on his future with the national team and potential retirement plans. Here is what he said...
Will Gareth Bale retire from international football after the World Cup?
Gareth Bale has denied that Wales’ clash with England will be his last appearance for his country. The former Real Madrid ace responded “no” when asked if it will be his final match - however it is unclear whether he meant he won’t be retiring or he expects Wales to qualify for the knockouts.
Wales boss Rob Page also discussed Bale’s future ahead of the World Cup. He said: “He will carry on. I expect him to be there. I do.
“I will tell you why, irrespective of what is going on in his career, he is always there for Wales. Whether he is playing or not at club level he just loves playing for Wales.
“If we have two games back-to-back, I’ll say to him, ‘You’re not starting the second game, I’ll see how it goes and might need you late on’. But he will be the one going to me on the bench, ‘Get me on. I want minutes. I can affect the game.’ I am having to pull the reins on him. He just loves playing for Wales, especially in Cardiff.”
It looked likely that Bale could have retired this summer if they hadn’t reached the World Cup, however when asked if their win over Ukraine would mean his retirement would be postponed, he responded: “For a little bit.” Wales’ next fixtures after the World Cup will be Euro 2026 qualifiers in March, which could be their first set of fixtures without their captain.
Gareth Bale’s international stats
Gareth Bale made his international debut in May 2006, when he replaced David Vaughan in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago and picked up an assist for the winning goal. The Southampton academy star became the youngest player to ever play for Wales at 16 years and 315 days - a record which has since been bettered by Harry Wilson. He went onto became the national team’s youngest ever goalscorer when he netted a free-kick against Slovakia five months later.
The 33-year-old is Wales top goalscorer of all time (41 goals) and also became their most capped player during Wales’ defeat against Iran last week (110 caps). He has scored almost double the amount of goals than their second top scorer Ian Rush (28)