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Bale writes goodbye letter to Real Madrid: ‘This dream became a reality’

Gareth Bale wrote a farewell letter to Real Madrid on Wednesday, the Welshman bringing an end to his nine-year spell at the Spanish club, where he said his "dream became a reality".

Bale writes goodbye letter to Real Madrid: 'This dream became a reality'
Real Madrid's Welsh striker Gareth Bale comes on as substitute during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-final first leg football match between Chelsea and Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, on April 6, 2022. - Madrid won the game 3-1. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / IKIMAGES / AFP)

Bale will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires at the end of June, with the 32-year-old yet to confirm what he will do next.

His future is likely to depend on whether Wales qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, with retirement a possible option if they miss out.

“I write this message to say thank you to all my teammates, past and present, my managers, the backroom staff and to the fans that supported me,” Bale wrote in a letter to Real Madrid, posted on social media in both English and Spanish.

“I arrived here nine years ago as a young man who wanted to realise my dream of playing for Real Madrid. To wear the pristine white kit, to wear the crest on my chest, to play at the Santiago Bernabeu, to win titles and to be part of what it’s so famous for, to win the Champions League.

“I can now look back, reflect and say with honesty that this dream became a reality and much, much more.

“To be a part of this club’s history and to achieve what we achieved while I was a Real Madrid player has been an incredible experience and one I will never forget.

“I also want to thank president Florentino Pérez, Jose Angel Sánchez and the board for giving me the opportunity to play for this club. Together we were able to create some moments that will live forever in the history of this club and football. It has been an honour.”

After joining Madrid from Tottenham for 100 million euros in 2013, Bale went on to win 16 major trophies with Real Madrid, including five Champions Leagues, three La Ligas and one Copa del Rey.

He also won three Club World Cups, three UEFA Super Cups and a Spanish Super Cup.

Memorable moments

More than his trophies, Bale will be remembered for a handful of spectacular moments, including his two goals scored off the bench against Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev, the first coming from a stunning bicycle kick.

He scored another hugely important goal in the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon, his header at the back post giving Real Madrid the lead against Atlético de Madrid in extra-time, as they went on to win the club’s long-awaited 10th European Cup.

Perhaps most memorable was Bale’s incredible solo goal at Mestalla to win the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona.

Bale’s popularity with the Real Madrid fans, though, has plummeted in recent years as injuries and a perceived lack of commitment pushed him to the fringes of the first team.

He was barely on speaking terms with Zinedine Zidane by the end of the 2017-18 season and hopes that Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure might revive his Real Madrid career were never realised.

A frosty relationship with the Spanish press harmed his reputation, with aspects of his personal life – including his passion for playing golf and a lack of fluency in Spanish – increasingly used to support the idea he had lost interest in his Real Madrid career.

The issue exploded in 2019 after Bale celebrated Wales’ qualification for Euro 2020 by standing behind a flag that read: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.”

Despite his heroics in the Champions League final in 2018, Bale’s role had already been significantly reduced that season under Zidane and his influence continued to dwindle even as new coaches like Julen Lopetegui, Santiago Solari, Zidane again, and most recently, Carlo Ancelotti, took charge.

Last season, Bale played only five times in La Liga and seven minutes in the Champions League, again saving his best for Wales, as he scored a hat-trick against Belarus in September and then twice against Austria in March to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive.

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FOOTBALL

How Wales fans swapped Qatar for Tenerife to enjoy a cheap and boozy World Cup

Wales supporters have flocked to the Spanish island of Tenerife to support their team in the World Cup instead of Qatar after a fan suggested the idea in a tweet that went viral. Unfortunately, there have already been some drunken excesses.

How Wales fans swapped Qatar for Tenerife to enjoy a cheap and boozy World Cup

When Wales qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1958 in June, Bethany Evans, 25, looked in to going to Qatar but was put off by the steep cost and strict restrictions on alcohol.

So she suggested Tenerife as an alternative on Twitter “as a joke” and the idea snowballed, with the post re-tweeted over 200 times and some 2,500 fellow Wales fans reaching out to say they would join her.

“I really thought it was just going to be me and a few friends, so this is absolutely incredible,” said Evans, a health and safety manager from Pontypridd, Wales who flew to Tenerife on the opening day of the tournament with her father and six friends.

She said she paid £750 (€865, $905) for a flight to Tenerife and a week’s accommodation while going to Qatar would have set her back £3,000.

Pubs and restaurants in the south of Tenerife, part of Spain’s sun-kissed Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa, have rolled out the welcome mat, decorating their walls with Welsh flags and putting Wales matches on TV.

Kelly Spiers, 45, the owner of the Original Wigan Pier pub and its sister bar La Flaca next door in Costa Adeje, said she had to order extra beer after she agreed at Evans’s request to host fans.

Decked out in red Welsh football jerseys and bucket hats, hundreds of Wales fans packed the two bars for their side’s 1-1 draw with the United States in their opener on November 21st and the 2-0 defeat to Iran on Friday.

“A lot of us have lost our voices because we have been shouting across the bar trying to get people’s orders because they were so noisy,” said Spiers, who is from Northern Ireland.

Spiers, who has lived in Tenerife for 26 years, has given Welsh names to cocktails and hired a choir to perform during halftime of the Welsh team’s crucial match against England on Tuesday.

A draw will be enough for England to make it through to the last 16 whereas Wales need to beat England to have any chance of qualifying, and hope for a draw between the United States and Iran in the other match.

Welsh fans have jammed other bar and restaurants in palm-lined Costa Adeje as well as nearby Los Cristianos and other coastal towns in the south of Tenerife, the most visited of the Canary Islands which is home to around 950,000 people.

Tony Lankshear, who works at Hoops Bar in Los Cristianos, said there have been Welsh fans “in every night” since the tournament began.

“It just sort of caught on. Word spread among all the Welsh supporters, a lot of them decided ‘right let’s go over and have a party in Tenerife’,” he said.

Unfortunately, there was a reminder of the alcohol-fuelled excesses of British tourists in Spain when on Friday drunk Wales and England fans took part in mass brawl in Las Veronicas bar area.

Videos have been widely shared on social media showing how a number of inebriated tourists punch, kick, push and even throw chairs at each other, resulting in several injuries. 

As a result, Tenerife authorities have reinforced police presence in the tourist areas ahead of England v Wales on Tuesday night.

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