Gareth Bale retires from LAFC, international competition

During a half season with the Los Angeles Football Club, Gareth Bale did what he’s always done: produce indelible moments and win.

Bale’s last act for LAFC — the latest headed goal in Major League Soccer history, which propelled the Black & Gold to penalty kicks and its first MLS Cup — was certainly worthy of being his finale in club football.

According to the 33-year-old from Cardiff, Wales, it will be.

Bale, widely regarded as one of the United Kingdom’s greatest soccer players, announced his retirement from club and international competition on Monday.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have realized my dream of playing the sport I love,” Bale said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Bale’s decision to leave the pitch follows the conclusion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where he captained Wales’ first tournament appearance in 64 years.

Bale scored the lone goal for the Welsh on a penalty kick in a 1-1 tie against the U.S. His nation was ousted after a draw and two losses in the group stage. All told, Bale made 111 appearances for Wales since 2006, scoring 40 goals and assisting on 22 more.

Among the most prolific winners in the modern game, Bale added an MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield to a list of honors that includes five UEFA Champions League titles, four FIFA Club World Cups and a raft of domestic titles in Spain, where he played nine years for Real Madrid.

Bale joined Madrid from Tottenham as the reigning Premier League Player of the year in 2013, his second such honor in three seasons. At the time, the record transfer fee to Madrid was worth more than $130 million and made Bale the most expensive player in history.

The illustrious forward made his professional debut at the age of 16 in the English Championship with Southampton. He spent five years with Tottenham before making 258 appearances with Madrid, registering 106 goals and 67 assists. Bale won 19 trophies in Spain, scoring in the 2014 and 2018 Champions League final.

Bale joined LAFC on June 27, 2022 as a splashy gamble that paid off for everyone involved. Upon his arrival, the left-footed winger said he hoped to play an extended period of time and leave his mark on the American game.

In 13 appearances with LAFC, Bale scored three times while adding a pair of trophies to his personal haul. However, he battled fitness issues in L.A., and never played a full 90 minutes for LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo.

Despite his short tenure in MLS, Bale’s No. 11 jersey sold more than any other player in the league’s online store last season.

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Bale’s contract with LAFC was set to expire in July and the club had an option to make him a Designated Player. His departure opens an international roster spot and frees up $1,612,500 in general allocation money that can immediately be used to sign players.

LAFC can sign a third DP without any restrictions.

“We want to thank Gareth for everything he brought to our Club,” LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington said in a statement. “He arrived here with a goal to win championships in L.A., and, like he has done everywhere else in his career he succeeded. 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.”

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