With his contract at Real Madrid expiring in the summer, it’s been pretty clear for some time that the future of Wales star Gareth Bale lies away from the Bernabeu.
The 32-year-old joined Los Blancos from Tottenham for a world-record fee of £90.9 million in 2013 – and has won four Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles during his time with the club.
However, the last few years have not been kind to Bale. Injury woes, combined with inconsistent form, have seen his playing time severely limited. Even a loan spell back at Spurs failed to reignite the player’s fortunes.
It has been a similar story this season, with the winger having managed just three appearances for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
While his time in the Spanish capital is surely drawing to a close, the crowning moment of Bale’s international career could be just around the corner.
Wales are two play-off victories away from securing their first appearance at a World Cup finals in 64 years – and their key man is understandably keen to be a part of the squad if they do qualify.
A semi-final meeting with Austria would be followed by a clash against either Scotland or Ukraine – with a place in the finals in Qatar on the line.
Bale could retire if Wales do not qualify for Qatar 2022
Should Wales not make it to the showpiece tournament, however, Sky Sports journalist Kaveh Solhekol has suggested that Bale may consider hanging up his boots.
“If Wales don’t qualify for the World Cup I think there is a very good chance that Bale will just retire from football when his contract runs out in the summer because he feels he’s achieved everything he set out to achieve in the game.
“If he’s not going to be able to play in the World Cup with Wales then he’ll retire.”
With that said, a report from The Athletic’s David Ornstein has indicated that Bale could be willing to continue his career at a lesser level if Wales are present at this winter’s tournament – in order to ensure that he is match fit for his country.
“If Wales safely navigate the qualification play-offs and Bale wants to feature in the finals, he will look to join a club – unlikely to be one at the very top level – in order to prepare himself for the December tournament,” wrote Ornstein.
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Could Bale be in line for a switch to the Championship?
Agreeing with Ornstein, Sky’s Solhekol speculated that Cardiff-born Bale could look to stay close to home with his next move should Wales become World Cup-bound.
“What I think he will then do is try to sign a short-term contract with a club back in the Premier League or the Championship.
“I actually think it is more likely that it could be a club in Wales in the Championship that he signs a short-term contract with,” said Solhekol.
In practice at present, that would mean either a move to Cardiff or Swansea, both of which would likely be keen to secure Bale’s services – if financial terms can be agreed.
It would be an unorthodox move for a player of Bale’s stature, but one that could make a lot of sense for all concerned.
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