‘Taxi for Maicon’ to Real Madrid exit: The highs and lows of Gareth Bale

Wales captain Gareth Bale has announced his retirement as a player.

The 33-year-old is his country’s most-capped player with 111 appearances and won the Champions League five times with Real Madrid.

Here we look back at the highs and lows of Bale’s career.

High – Aged 16 years and 315 days, became the youngest player to represent Wales, setting up Rob Earnshaw’s winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Trinidad and Tobago on his international debut in 2006.

Low – After being named Football League Young Player of the Year, playingleft-back in his breakthrough season, he sustained injury on his finalSouthampton appearance as the club suffered defeat to Derby in the Championship play-offs.

Low – Moved to Tottenham for a fee potentially rising to £10million in2007, but the club failed to register a win during his first 24 Premier Leagueappearances.

High – After going more than two-and-a-half years without scoring, a spellwhich included the first red card of his career, struck winning goals insuccessive matches as Spurs beat London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in April2010.

High – A sensational Champions League hat-trick in a 4-3 loss to Inter Milan at San Siro in October 2010 confirmed his status as one of Europe’s top stars.

High – Netted 21 Premier League goals during the 2012-13 season, helping earn a world-record £85million move to Madrid.

High – Notched his first El Clasico goal against Barcelona to secure Copa del Rey glory before becoming the first Welshman to score in a Champions League final by heading home in the 4-1 extra-time success over Atletico Madrid.

High – In 2016 he lifted the Champions League trophy for a second time afterscoring in a penalty shoot-out as Real once again defeated city rivals Atleticoin the final.

High – Scored three times at Euro 2016 as Wales enjoyed a fairytale run to the semi-finals of the competition in France, upsetting Belgium along the way.

Low – In November 2016 was ruled out for around four months after damaging ankle tendons in a Champions League clash with Sporting Lisbon.

High – Returned from injury to help Real become LaLiga champions for thefirst time in five years.

Low – Despite capping the 2016-17 season with a third Champions League title in his hometown of Cardiff, the success was bittersweet on a personal level as he was only a late substitute in the final against Juventus.

High – Surpassed Ian Rush as Wales’ record goalscorer following ahat-trick against China in March 2018. He scored 41 goals for hiscountry.

High – Again substitute for a Champions League final, but thistime came off the bench to score a brace for Madrid – including a stunning overhead kick – to earn a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Kiev.

Low – Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus, enjoyed aprolific 2018-19 season but Real disappointingly finished third in LaLiga forthe second year in a row, 17 points adrift of champions Barcelona.

Low – In the summer of 2019, Real boss Zinedine Zidane announced he was willing to let Bale leave the Bernabeu but insisted it was “nothing personal”.

Low – The Welshman had angered Madrid supporters by pretending to fall asleep while sat on the bench during Real’s 2-0 win against Alaves in July 2020. He was left out for the trip to the Etihad Stadium by Zidane, with the manager claiming Bale chose not to be part of the squad.

High – Having returned Tottenham on a season-long loan in September 2020, scored his first goal back at the London club when stepping off the bench in a 2-1 home win against Brighton.

High – Netted a hat-trick for Tottenham against Sheffield United and struck two more in a 4-2 win at Leicester on the final day of the 2020-21 season.

High – Captained Wales at Euro 2020 and made two assists as Wales reached the round of 16 with a 2-0 win against Turkey.

High – The forward proved inspirational for Wales as they qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958. Scored both goals in a 2-0 play-off semi-final win against Austria and his deflected free-kick in the play-off final against Ukraine secured his country a place at Qatar 2022.

Low – Made just seven appearances for Madrid during the 2021-22 season and confirmed his exit from the club on Twitter in June 2022.

Low – After joining Major League Soccer side Los Angeles FC in June 2022, restricted to 12 appearances and made only two starts, although he did help LA win the MLS Cup for the first time.