Gareth Bale has refused to deny reports he could retire after the European Championships this summer, even though he has a year left on a reported £600,000-a-week contract at Real Madrid.
Now Spanish publication Marca claim to have new information, saying he will quit the sport “unless something changes”.
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“Marca have been able to confirm that Bale has been thinking about hanging up his boots this summer and, unless something changes, he will announce as much after the European Championship has come to an end this summer,” read the report on Saturday.
What that “something” that needs to change is, we don’t quite know.
That’s a damning report, right?
Maybe. But it seems unlikely that Bale’s camp would leak any information to the Spanish press given how they have hounded him in recent years.
Bale has always enjoyed antagonising the media, so this could simply be the latest in his series of games to send them (us) into a tizz. Remember that infamous ‘Wales, Golf, Madrid’ flag? Or when he pulled his face mask over his eyes and pretended to be asleep? He loves it.
What has Bale actually said?
Here he is, speaking before the defeat to France in midweek:
“Obviously there’s been a lot of things written about whether I’m doing this and doing that. For me, the main thing is I don’t want to say anything that’s going to cause more chaos or more drama or cause a distraction.
“I just want to focus on the Euros. I don’t want to say anything that is going to cause any problems on what I am doing or what I am not doing.
When the Euros finishes for us then I will sit down and decide what I want to do.
To be fair, that’s not exactly reassuring for Wales fans – but then again, as seen above, he does love winding everyone up.
What have others said?
Joe Rodon, Bale’s teammate at Wales and Tottenham last season, has already laughed off the rumours.
“No chance [he will retire],” Rodon told Sky Sports earlier this week. “It’s all on Gareth and I’ve got nothing to do with that, but none of us at Wales want him anywhere near retirement. We want him for as long as possible.”
Meanwhile, Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, has also dismissed reports his man could quit football this summer.
Is there any reason Bale would want to retire?
Well, he appears to have an irreparable relationship with Real Madrid’s fans. With supporters slowly returning to stadiums, does he really want a swansong year of jeers?
He could move clubs, of course, but his lucrative wage packet means few clubs can afford him – especially in a pandemic. While he impressed in bursts for Tottenham this season, it’s hard to make a case that he really delivered given the astronomical wages involved. Spurs finished seventh in the Premier League and while Bale scored 16 goals across all competitions, they were not enough to end the club’s trophy drought.
And then there are his injury problems. Maybe, after so many setbacks, he’s just fed up of the repetitive and mind-numbing process of rehab. Then again…
What about the World Cup?
Good question, fictional audience. Why on earth would Bale pass up an opportunity of carrying Wales to only their second World Cup finals – and their first since 1958? Bale has previously spoken with such passion about his dreams to lead them to Qatar 2022, so it would seem strange to perform a U-turn so close to the tournament.
Belgium might be the runaway favourites in their qualifying group, but Wales are comfortably the next best team in the group and finishing second would send them to the play-offs. That seems worth a punt, even with the drawback of being a highly-paid footballer for 18 more months.
Picture of the year - May 2018 - Football - Gareth Bale scores overhead kick in Champions League final.jpg
Image credit: Eurosport
So what will Bale do?
Money obviously isn’t his primary motivator given how much is already stowed in the bank, but £600,000 a week for another year of playing/watching football does seem unavoidably tempting.
Now Zidane is out, and Carlo Ancelotti is in, he also actually has a chance of salvaging his reputation at Real Madrid. It seems crazy that he is held in such poor esteem, given he was pivotal to the club ending their hunt for La Decima and their three subsequent Champions League crowns. You can't just forget that overhead kick.
Real are crying out for a player like him to step up next season and with Eden Hazard now Public Enemy No.1, they might even warm to Bale again. His reputation, combined with his substantial wages and the lure of a World Cup, mean it's hard to see him quitting the sport this summer.
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