Bet Slip

No Bets Added

Gareth Bale’s Legacy

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale’s Legacy

Five Champions League trophies. three La Liga titles. A total of 18 career trophies. Over 180 career goals. Over 130 career assists. The countless free-kicks. The stunning long-range efforts. The moments of genius that left us all dumbfounded. A man built for finals. A man who took his country to the promised land. Agent Jonathan Barnett said that he will be remembered as “the greatest British player of all time”. He certainly should be.

Bale’s Rise to Fame

Gareth Bale came from the famed academy of Southampton FC, making his debut at the tender age of just 16. Back then, the Welshman was not deployed in the position that he is now renowned for, with Bale instead being deployed as a left-back.

He made his debut for the Saints’ first team in a 2-0 win over Millwall in their third-last game of the 2005/06 Championship campaign – this debut meant that at that time, Bale was the second-youngest player ever to have played for the club. Bale would become a first-team regular the following season, scoring in Southampton’s opening game of the 2006/07 Championship against Derby, a match that would eventually finish 2-2.

Bale would score in the Saints’ next league game, scoring the opener via a free-kick in a 2-0 defeat of Coventry City. Bale would go on to score three more goals and pick up 11 assists in the league that season, securing him the Football League Young Player Of The Year award to cap off an amazing first full season as a professional. His exploits were attracting attention from the Premier League, with Tottenham Hotspur the club who ended up securing the Welshman’s services for a fee of around £5m on a four-year deal in the summer of 2007.

A Tough Start in North London

Bale endured a tough start to life in North London, with Tottenham failing to register a win in Bale’s first 24 appearances – losing on his debut against Manchester United. But, Bale would get his first goal for his new club in the following game, scoring Tottenham’s third in a 3-3 draw with Fulham, and he followed that up with a free-kick against Arsenal in the North London derby in the next match.

However, Bale’s season was to come crashing down in December, when a tackle from Fabrice Muamba left the Welshman in discomfort. He was substituted, and it was later revealed that he had torn the ankle ligaments of his right ankle. He was set to miss the rest of the season, and that would prove to be a bitter pill to swallow. Tottenham would end up winning the League Cup that year, and Bale missed out due to his injury.

Bale returned to full fitness in August of 2008, and it would not prove to be a better year for him. He did go on to make 30 appearances in all competitions, but he failed to find the net once all season, and he played just 22 minutes as Tottenham lost to Manchester United in that year’s League Cup final.

The 2009/10 season didn’t start too well for Bale, as he picked up a knee injury that ruled him out for the opening six league games and two months of the season. But in his first match back, he overcame that unwanted record of Tottenham not winning in a match he had played in since his arrival. Their 5-0 thrashing of Burnley in late September meant that Bale was finally on the winning side in a Premier League match.

The former Southampton man failed to gain a consistent spot in the starting XI for a while afterwards, but regular left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s injury allowed him a route back into the team. Bale showed his best form since signing for the club then in what was a sustained period of starts and good form for the Welshman – contributing three goals and five assists whilst also playing the full 90 minutes in every league game from the 16th of January onwards that season.

The Making of Gareth Bale

Bale’s great performances as the season wore on, especially the attacking side of his game, gave Harry Redknapp the idea to play Bale further forward. With the return of Assou-Ekotto, a recognised and competent left-back, Bale was given a position out wide on the left wing, with Redknapp hoping that the attacking qualities he saw in the Welshman would see him flourish in that more advanced role. Tottenham would ultimately secure Champions League football for the first time in their history at the end of the season.

The 2010/11 season is when Bale truly broke out and finally showed the footballing world why Tottenham had elected to take a punt on him just a few years ago. It was in the iconic San Siro stadium on the 20th of October in the Champions League when he really announced himself to the footballing world, in a performance that is widely considered to be the making of Gareth Bale.

The previous season’s winners Inter Milan awaited the debutants, and the Nerazzurri were 4-0 up after just 35 minutes of action. Up stepped Bale. His first goal came seven minutes into the second half, picking up the ball in his own half and then using his pace to burst past two Inter players. Javier Zanetti couldn’t keep up with him, and the onrushing Walter Samuel was too late – Bale had already fired in an angled shot past the static Julio Cesar to give Tottenham what was seemingly a consolation.

As the game ticked on into injury time, Bale was at it again. After first winning the ball via a poor pass forward from an Inter player who then won it back, a Spurs midfielder took advantage of a tackle that rebounded back into his possession by playing a through ball to Bale, who was already on his bike. Using his electric pace, he was able to fend off Zanetti and arrow a shot in the far corner – a near-carbon copy of the first goal. And then just a minute later, Bale got his hat-trick after his shot from just inside the box once again found its way into the far corner, stunning the Italians inside the ground but sending the travelling Spurs contingent wild.

Tottenham would end up losing 4-3 come the full-time whistle, but Gareth Bale’s heroics would live long in the memory. Just under two weeks later in the return leg, Bale would once torment Inter’s defence as Spurs triumphed 3-1. Maicon, who at that point was considered one of the European game’s finest full-backs, was given a torrid time by the Welshman, who grabbed two assists on the night. Maicon was never the same again.

Tottenham would make it all the way to the quarter-finals that year, making their debut participation in Europe’s premier competition a memorable one. Bale would finish the season with 11 goals and ten assists in all competitions, and interest from other clubs was starting to build. Bale was named the PFA Players’ Player Of The Year for that season. And the interest in him from other clubs was only heightened when, the following season, Bale scored 13 and assisted 17.

From Tottenham to Madrid

The 2012/13 would prove to be Bale’s last at White Hart Lane, but what a season it was. Bale would score 26 goals (21 in the league) and register 14 assists, and won the FWA Player, PFA Players’ Player, PFA Young Player and Premier League Player Of The Year awards that season. It was also a season of record-breaking, with Bale scoring nine league goals from outside the box, the highlight of which was a dipping effort from outside the area in a win over West Ham. But his performances had now piqued the interest of Real Madrid…

After six seasons at White Hart Lane, Bale made the move to the Bernabeu for a then world-record transfer fee of £85m in 2013. Bale would spend eight trophy-laden seasons at the club, scoring 106 goals and laying on 67 assists in 258 outings in the iconic white shirt of Madrid, with a catalogue of magnificent goals to his name.

Bale’s first season in the Spanish capital was one to remember, with 22 goals and 19 assists to his name. Madrid won a Champions League-Copa del Rey double that year, and Bale played a standout role in winning both trophies. He scored the goal to give Madrid the lead in extra-time over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final that they would go on to win 4-1, and also scored an iconic winner in the Copa del Rey final – he outpaced Barcelona’s Marc Bartra, even being forced off the pitch at one point, but recovering to maintain his speed and balance before knocking the ball past goalkeeper Pinto for what was Madrid’s first trophy of the season.

Madrid won nothing except the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup the following season, but Bale contributed 29 G/A. Bale grabbed an assist and scored in the penalty shootout in the following season’s Champions League final as Madrid won the competition for what was the 11th time, doing so at the expense of Atletico yet again, with Bale ending the season with 33 G/A despite having missed 23 games due to injury. And injuries were now becoming a problem…

Madrid won the Champions League yet again the following season as well as La Liga, but it was a poor season for Bale personally. He failed to hit double figures in goals or assists and missed 35 games due to injury. The emergence of Isco was also a problem, and reports began emerging in the press that Madrid were looking to cash in on Bale.

2017/18 was somewhat of a return to form for Bale, with Madrid winning their third consecutive Champions League and Bale contributing a total of 21 goals and seven assists over the course of the season. That season saw arguably the greatest goal of Bale’s career – his overhead kick in the Champions League final against Liverpool. Having only come on a couple of minutes earlier, a floated ball by Marcelo into the edge of the Liverpool box saw Bale score a sublime overhead kick that will go down as one of the competition’s greatest goals. Maybe THE greatest.

The Start of the end for Bale

Bale’s time at the Bernabeu was slowly inching towards a conclusion – he still had a few years left on his contract, but there was no sign that he wanted to leave despite a lot of the press reporting that he wanted to do so.

Who could afford Bale’s astronomical wages? Bale was reportedly close to an exit in July 2019, before Madrid stopped his move to China with Jiangsu Suning, with Zinedine Zidane claiming that Bale had never wanted to leave. Injuries were still dogging the Welshman, and the media, as well as the club’s notoriously vocal fans, were a constant source of vitriol towards Bale, berating him for allegedly not learning Spanish and also claiming that he was more interested in golf than Madrid.

Bale rather echoed that sentiment when, while on international duty with Wales, he pulled out a banner that read “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order”. That stunt certainly didn’t help his standing with fans or the media. The situation continued to deteriorate, and Bale found himself loaned out for a season to… Tottenham Hotspur. He helped his old side to qualify for Europe, scoring 16 goals and grabbing three assists in his one-season return to London. Bale returned to the Spanish capital for the 2021/22 season, but found game time hard to come by. Finally, in May 2022, Bale’s exit from the club was announced.

MLS side Los Angeles FC announced their signing of Bale on a 12-month deal, and it was a move that epitomised parts of his career. He needed playing time to keep himself fit for the upcoming World Cup. After a promising start, injuries began to kick in and he soon found himself playing only sporadic minutes.

But, in true Gareth Bale fashion, he turned up when it mattered. In the final of the MLS Cup, with the clock approaching full-time in extra-time and with his side 3-2 down, late substitute Bale stood up tall to power a header home in the 128th minute to send the match to penalties. LAFC would subsequently win the match on penalties and therefore the club’s first-ever MLS Cup. It would prove to be Bale’s last-ever football match at club level. Just two months later, he would announce his retirement from the game.

Bale’s International Legacy

Despite a turbulent club career at times, Bale had one clear love – Wales. A hugely patriotic man, he was the main proponent, the driving force behind Wales’s quest to qualify for a major tournament after decades and decades of absence. And they did so in 2016, with that year’s European Championships marking their first tournament appearance in 58 years.

Bale was at the heart of everything, alongside a squad playing their hearts out for their country, the Dragons made it all the way to the semi-finals in a run that will never be forgotten. They qualified for the next iteration four years later. But they were still missing that elusive World Cup finals appearance.

Their last World Cup finals campaign had come in 1958, 64 years earlier. But Bale was determined to drag them there. And despite a tough time at club level, he shut out all the noise and pulled out the performances that would finally get his nation to the World Cup.

A Bale brace against Austria in the play-off semi-finals set up a clash with Ukraine for the coveted final spot. And who was it that had a say on proceedings? Yes. A deflected Bale free-kick against Ukraine was what did it, and just six years after qualifying for the Euros, Wales were now in a World Cup, and Bale would have the chance to lead his country out onto the biggest stage.

As a footballing country, Wales had never achieved much. But this mercurial talent, this generational footballer, had dragged Wales to unparalleled heights not previously thought possible. He retires as his country’s all-time top goalscorer and most-capped player of all time. And, without a doubt, the greatest Welsh player of all time.