Manager Rob Page has paid tribute to “phenomenal” Cymru captain Gareth Bale following his retirement from football on Monday.
Bale brought down the curtain on a glittering 16-year career, which saw him become the all-time leading appearance holder and all-time leading goalscorer for the men’s national team.
The inspiring captain, who made his senior international debut against Trinidad & Tobago in 2006, went on to make 111 appearances for Cymru – scoring 41 goals – and helped guide Cymru to three of the last four major tournaments.
Bale was a crucial part of the squad that defied the odds to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and led the nation into Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup – their first since 1958.
“It’s phenomenal what he’s done for us, not just from a footballing point of view but as a nation as well,” said Page. “He’s put Wales on the map globally because what he’s done in European football at Real Madrid, in the Premier League with Tottenham and in the World Cup as well. From a cultural point of view and Wales in general, everyone should be proud of what he’s done for us.
“I’ve worked with him for a couple of years and when I was with the under-21s, I could see from afar that he was passionate about playing for his country. Now having worked with him closely, it’s another level again because he’s so proud every time he puts on that jersey and it comes through with him.
“He’s a credit to himself and his family with the way he conducts himself around the group and the way he looks after the young players when they come into camp. Of course he will be missed and it’s not the news we wanted to start the year, but we all knew it was going to come one day.”
Away from the international stage, Bale produced a number of crucial goals at club level and won three LaLiga titles, five Champions League titles, along with three Club World Cups, three UEFA Super Cups, a Spanish Cup and MLS Cup.
And Page says he wants to utilise Bale’s experience in future international camps and will offer him the chance to remain in the Cymru setup.
“When you’ve got someone of Gareth Bale’s stature and the impact he can have, even in the changing room just being around the players, I’ve got to take advantage of that,” he added. “That is something I’m passionate about and I want to keep him involved.
“I think he’ll be interested and there might have been discussions before this about staying involved in some capacity. The important thing right now is to celebrate his career and celebrate what he’s done for us as a nation.”Rob Page, Cymru Manager