One of Tottenham Hotspur’s all-time best players is hanging up his boots. Gareth Bale announced his retirement from club and international football on social media today, ending a career that started at Southampton’s academy, took him to Tottenham, and hit its peak at Real Madrid.
I had a sense that a Bale retirement was coming, but I suspected that it was going to be just from international football. Bale finally realized a life-long dream of playing World Cup football with Wales last month in Qatar, and although it didn’t go as well as he would’ve hoped, it was a nice book-end to his career. Bale retires as a member of LAFC in MLS, where he joined last June on a one-year contract with the possibility of an extension.
I think it’s safe to say that for Tottenham players of (cough) a certain age, Gareth Bale was what got them into the club. Under Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas, Bale went from an unlucky left back with a “curse” on him that saw the club lose every time he played for Spurs, to one of the best attackers in world football. At his peak he was so much fun to watch — he scored some incredible goals for Spurs and carried the team while he was here.
His transfer to Real Madrid was sad, but expected, and Spurs were able to turn his then-record transfer fee into Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, and the rest of the “Bale Seven.” The “sold Elvis and bought the Beatles” take from back then rings a little hollow these days, but it was certainly a watershed moment for Spurs in the past decade.
Bale never got the recognition nor the love in Madrid that he had at Tottenham Hotspur. One my biggest regrets is that his one-season return to Spurs in 2020 took place under Jose Mourinho during the COVID-19 shutdown year, meaning Tottenham fans never got a chance to see him play, or score, for Spurs in person; Mourinho’s tactics also never really suited Bale even in his “golden years” and he was mostly relegated to a bench role.
Bale was the first real global Tottenham superstar of the modern era, and his ascendency was so much fun to watch and witness. Remember his breakout match in the 4-3 loss against Inter Milan in the Champions League? He came onto the scene at a time when Tottenham really needed him and helped establish Spurs as a power club in the Premier League.
Now Gareth can concentrate on his other love — golf. Can we see a PGA card in his future? (Hopefully not the LIV tour, though).
I loved him. I still do. I wish him the best in whatever comes next. Thanks for everything, Gareth.