Now for Gareth Bale, it’s all or nothing – victory or defeat, this is his “Last Dance”. The Wales captain will either fulfill his lifelong dream and end his country’s 64-year wait by qualifying for the World Cup on Sunday, or it will be the end of a glorious but challenging career.

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Bale is ready to retire from football if Wales lose to Ukraine in the postponed European Path A play-off final at Cardiff City Stadium, sources told Sportzshala. But if they win, he will extend his career for another six months, solely to tick off the only unchecked box on the list of achievements.

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Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett hinted at that outcome just last month: “Gareth doesn’t know what’s going to happen over the summer,” Barnett said. Telegraph Sport. “It all depends on Wales.”

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Less than a week after saying goodbye to Real Madrid at the end of his contract after nine years at the Santiago Bernabéu and just days after winning his fifth Champions League medal, the 32-year-old winger has arguably saved the most important moment. career—and there were several big ones—until the very end.

Wales have not played in the World Cup since 1958. World-class players including Ian Rush (Liverpool), Neville Southall (Everton), Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) have all tried and failed to take the country to the biggest league in football. tournament. But having inspired Wales to qualify for Euro 2016 and Euro 2020, Bale is now within the same game to help the country get to Qatar 2022. And despite his success in Madrid, playing in the World Cup means everything to him.

“At the beginning of my career in Wales, the main thing was to play in a major tournament,” Bale said during a training camp in Wales in 2021. – We managed to do it, and now, in order to be able to cross everything off the list, it would be to qualify for the World Championship. For me, qualifying for the World Cup would be amazing.”

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At first glance, Bale’s career was a football fairy tale. He made 102 appearances for Wales, holds the record for his country with 38 goals, and since his £85.3m move from Tottenham in 2013, he has won 15 major honours, including five victories in the Champions League and three La Liga titles. He scored two stunning goals in the 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool and his winning goal in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona showed off his incredible speed, strength and finishing ability, perhaps better than any goal that he scored before or after.

And yet there is one “but” with Bale. He is adored in Wales, but his time at Real Madrid has soured in recent years to the point where he was regularly booed by fans, criticized for his love of golf and ignored by coaches for his fitness record. When Spanish newspaper Marca called him a “parasite” earlier this year for “sucking” Real Madrid’s money, Bale called his critics “disgusting”.

It’s a complex story, and the final chapter promises to be in keeping with his mysterious career. Bale is one of the greatest footballers Britain has ever produced, but for those who know him, he remains a reluctant superstar.

Moving on from the contention between Madrid and Wales

“Gareth comes from a working class background,” one of Bale’s Tottenham friends told Sportzshala. “His father was a caretaker, and Gareth was never one of those who changed or got ideas above his position. When he returned to the Spurs on loan last season, it didn’t seem like a day had passed since he left – he was exactly the same person. He is not short-tempered or arrogant. He certainly loves beautiful things and loves his cars, but all that superstardom that comes with playing for Madrid has never appealed to him.

“He has become one of the biggest stars in football, but he is still a big kid with a sense of mischief and someone who treats the club staff as his friends as well as his teammates. That’s why he enjoys playing for Wales so much.” “He just feels like he’s back with his comrades and he likes the normality of it all.”

By now, Bale has given up on the prospect of some time off from Real Madrid’s Champions League final win over Liverpool last Saturday, opting to fly direct from Madrid to connect with the Wales side in Portugal ahead of their midweek Nations League clash with Poland. .

“Gareth was adamant that he was meeting players in Portugal to fly to Poland with them, which is saying a lot,” said Wales manager Rob Page. “He wanted to be on the team as soon as possible. He is as humble as always. He met with the group and he immediately became first class.”

But Bale’s unwavering commitment to Wales has caused friction in Madrid. Over the past two years, he has made more appearances for his country (19) than for Real Madrid (7), but his relationship with the Spanish club’s fans took a turn for the worse in November 2019, when he celebrated qualification for Euro 2020 by posing with the flag Wales. with the words: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In this order”.

Bale’s love of golf has become a bone of contention in Madrid over his willingness to spend his free time on the course – he plays with a handicap of four – and his passion for the sport now extends to his themed golf bar called Par 59, which opened in Cardiff at the start. this year. However, Bale’s relationship with the Real Madrid fans never recovered after the banner incident.

“I saw the banner weeks before,” Bale said on the Hat-Trick podcast. “The boys showed me and said, ‘If we qualify, let’s try to find and release.’ I said, “Do what you want, but I won’t go for it.” They took it down, we all celebrated as a team and I’m not going to not jump with my teammates. It was a bit of a joke. A little fun. People can see it the way they like.”

Sources close to Bale told Sportzshala that he didn’t want to be seen with the banner at first, but eventually decided to join the celebration. “It only worsened his relationship with Madrid,” the source said. “But it got to the point where he felt like he couldn’t win with them, so why even try?”

Madrid sources added that while Bale and his family settled down more happily than reports suggest – his wife and kids returned to Spain midway through his season-long loan spell with the Spurs last year – his family opinion meant he didn’t attend some about the club’s many player gatherings and how some teammates thought he was distant and uninterested.

“He’s a non-drinker and a party type,” a friend told Sportzshala. “It’s just none of his business.”

However, with Wales, he is not an outsider at all. He’s a prankster who rearranged sprinklers during Euro 2020 to make sure his teammates got wet during pre-match warm-ups, set up a group bout after missing a penalty against Turkey to take the blame for a potentially costly mishap, and is an earth star who wants everyone to feel as comfortable as he does when representing the team.

“It’s actually amazing how humble he is,” said Huddersfield winger Sorba Thomas, who made his Wales debut last October. “There aren’t many people who have been there and done it the way he did. He could just say, “Yeah, are you okay? and then he literally didn’t talk to you again, but he sat down at the table with us young people and had a full conversation. When you are there, you just see it from the other side. He’s a legend in Madrid and he’s a Premier League legend.”

Retire or find a new club? The World Cup may decide

Bale’s career may now be entering its last 90 minutes. No one Sportzshala spoke to – who knows what he thinks – believes he will continue his career as a footballer if Wales lose to Ukraine this weekend. “It will be like this,” said one friend. “He’s fallen out of love with the game a bit and now it’s Wales and the World Cup that motivate him.”

If Wales win then Bale need to find a club this will allow him to play and stay in shape until November when Qatar 2022 kicks off. Wales will finish last in Group B if they qualify and start their campaign against the United States on November 21 before facing Iran and neighboring England.

Bale is expected to sign a short-term contract with Cardiff City for the EFL Championship, while a move to the US has also been offered due to the MLS season running until October or November 5 if he joins a team that succeeds. . to the MLS Cup final.

Sources close to Bale are dubious about a move to Cardiff, telling Sportzshala that playing in such an unforgiving league so close to a World Cup would be a risk the 32-year-old is unlikely to take. But Bale and Wales must get to Qatar first. This is the main concern. All other decisions will depend on the outcome of Sunday’s game in Cardiff.

However, there is no doubt that Bale is still capable of being the man who can make a difference for Wales. His two goals against Austria gave him a 2-1 win that secured him a spot in the play-off final against Ukraine for a World Cup spot.

He has played just 29 minutes of competitive football for club and country since that March evening in Cardiff, so time will tell how fit and ready he will be on Sunday.

But in reality, it’s either win or lose for Bale right now, so there’s no point in holding back.