Five-time Champions League winner and Welsh football icon Gareth Bale has retired at the age of 33.
The forward announced his decision on social media Monday, saying the game had given him some of the “best moments of my life.”
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football,” he wrote.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have realized my dream of playing the sport I love.”
Bale started his career in England with Southampton but made his name at Tottenham before signing for Real Madrid for a then-world record fee in 2013.
He won three La Liga titles in Spain in addition to the five trophies in the Champions League as he dovetailed a frightening forward line alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
After a brief loan spell back at Tottenham, Bale signed for Major League Soccer (MLS) team Los Angeles FC (LAFC) in 2022.
He retired as Wales’ most-capped men’s player with 111 appearances and led his nation to its first World Cup in 64 years at Qatar 2022.
“To show my gratitude to all those that have played their part along this journey, feels like an impossibility,” he added.
“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 9 years old.
“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 scored a plethora of remarkable goals during his career, including a stunning overhead kick during the Champions League final against Liverpool in 2018.
At his best, Bale’s pace, power and eye for a long range goal made him one of the best players in the world.
Injuries began to hamper his form in recent years, but Bale always managed to show up for Wales.
The talisman led his country to Euro 2016 and 2020, reaching the semifinals in the former.
But his dream was to always play in the World Cup and he did so in Qatar, captaining his side and scoring his country’s first World Cup goal since 1958 against the US.
“My decision to retire from International football has been, by far the hardest of my career,” he said in a separate statement on social media.
“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 into 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.”
Bale finished his 16-year career at LAFC, scoring a dramatic, late goal to help the team win the Major League Soccer Cup for the first time in November 2022.
“It was an honor to have one of the most talented, dynamic and exciting players of his generation finish his career with a title for LAFC, and we wish Gareth, his wife Emma, and their family nothing but the best in their future endeavors,” LAFC Co-President & General Manager John Thorrington said in a statement.