Gareth Bale announces retirement from professional football

Gareth Bale has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 33.

Bale made the surprise announcement on Monday in a statement posted on his social media channels.

It brings an end to a career that saw Bale excel for Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and LAFC, while also establishing himself as one of the greatest players in Welsh football history.

"After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football," Bale said in a statement.

"I feel incredibly fortunate to have realised my dream of playing the sport I love. 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 last act in football was playing for Wales in the 2022 World Cup, where he earned the last of his record-breaking 111 caps in their 3-0 defeat to England.

"So for now I am stepping back, but not away from the team that lives in me and runs through my veins," he added. "After all, the dragon on my shirt is all I need."