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Wales manager, Robert Page, has confirmed that he wants Gareth Bale to continue in some capacity for the Wales national team after the forward announced his retirement yesterday.
Bale, who has amassed 111 caps for the national team, announced that he would be retiring from club and international football yesterday with immediate effect after a glittering career. Although the latter stages of his career were marred by injuries, he is set to go down as one of Britain’s greatest-ever footballers.
His influence on his national team cannot be understated. He led them to three international tournaments, including the most recent World Cup. The highlight of his international career undoubtedly came when he captained his nation to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 against all odds.
To ensure the Bale-shaped hole isn’t left void ahead of the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, Robert Page has said that he has spoken to his former captain about still playing a part in and around the group. What this role would look like remains to be seen.
A presence in the changing room
Bale has been a mainstay in the Wales changing room for well over a decade and Page is clearly concerned about what his absence could mean for morale. Talking about this potential new role for Bale to BBC Radio Wales, he said:
“What this role is we don’t know yet, but he just needs some to spend with his family. I won’t go into detail and to what level, but that’s as far as we’ve got with it.
It’s a big adjustment for him, going into normal life, but we’ll have another conversation with him in a few weeks and we’ll make a plan moving forward, but he has so much to offer.
Even just his presence in the changing room, just his presence in the hotel environment, is something that I would be really keen on keeping him involved.”
Whatever the role is, it’s unlikely to be a playing one with Page ruling out the possibility of trying to persuade Bale to come out of retirement for his country. The ex-Northampton Town manager has said that he told Bale the time was right for him to hang up his boots:
“Gareth messaged to say he needed a conversation. I knew it was something significant, but when he announced it to me it didn’t come as a complete surprise. I told him I think it’s the right time to bow out. You’ve just scored in a World Cup and got everything on your CV, what you’ve done for this country is unbelievable.”
Bale should be celebrated
Despite some eyebrows being raised at the fact Bale is calling time on his playing career at the age of 33, his former manager Chris Coleman believes his decision is understandable. Coleman was the manager during Wales’ historic Euro 2016 run and has told BBC Radio Wales that Bale’s career should be celebrated:
“I think of course we’re going to be disappointed, but we must never forget what he has given to his country. We’ve got to celebrate what he’s achieved with Wales, where he’s helped to put Wales, he’d had a large input on the last 8-10 years of success.”