Gareth Bale has been tipped to retire from club football at the end of the 2021/22 season but could still extend his international career beyond that until after the 2022 World Cup should Wales qualify.
Bale’s future has been the subject of uncertainty for a number of months. He is still under contract with Real Madrid until the end of June 2022, but spent last season on loan with former club Tottenham in order to ensure he was match fit for Euro 2020.
The 31-year-old barely played for Real Madrid during the 2019/20 campaign under Zinedine Zidane, who has since left. New coach Carlo Ancelotti, under whom Bale played a decisive part in the 2014 Champions League final, recently spoke optimistically about the winger having a role this season.
However, nothing is confirmed on that front, although Bale does appear likely to return to Madrid following a summer holiday as he has previously confirmed an intention to see out his contract.
A transfer looks unlikely, despite Real being desperate for cash and to clear space on their wage bill, as no club is expected to match his current contract worth an estimated £600,000 per week.
Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, rubbished claims in May that the player could retire this year after Euro 2020 – he helped Wales reach the last 16 of the tournament.
Bale himself also dismissed claims that Euro 2020 would be his last international football, insisting that he will continue to represent Wales until he is no longer playing at any level.
The Daily Mirror writes that Bale is preparing to walk away from club football next summer once his contract expires, with the newspaper claiming that he has told friends and advisers he has no plans to try and find a new club once he becomes a free agent.
However, he could still carry on playing for Wales after that. Ordinarily, the World Cup would follow straight on from the club season, but the 2022 tournament is delayed until winter so that it is not taking place during Qatar’s summer when temperatures easily climb above 40 degrees Celsius.
If Wales qualify for their first World Cup since 1958, Bale could face a four-month period during which he has to keep himself fit without being contracted to a club.
Wales will struggle to qualify automatically from the qualifying group stage as it would mean finishing ahead of Belgium. Second place would put them into the playoffs, while they could also reach the playoffs if they finish third thanks to their most Nations League finish.