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Rob Page agreed with Bale it was ‘right time’ to retire

WALES manager Rob Page agreed with Gareth Bale it was ‘the right time’ to finish his football career.

Bale, a five-time Champions League winner at Real Madrid, ended a dazzling career on Monday after winning 111 caps and scoring 41 goals for his country – two Wales men’s team records.

The 33-year-old’s decision came after Wales’ dreary performance at the World Cup in Qatar when Page’s team failed to get out of their group and Bale struggled due to a lack of match fitness.

Page revealed Bale got in touch with him on Sunday to let him know about his decision to retire, and he affirmed that he was completely in agreement with his captain.

“Gareth messaged to say he needed a conversation,” Page told BBC Radio Wales.

“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.”

Wales start their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign in March and Page confirmed that Bale, who was playing for Los Angeles FC in the MLS, would have been selected for that double-header against Croatia and Latvia.

He said: “He would have had a part to play. The roles might have changed slightly.

“Would he be able to play 90 minutes back to back? Lessons have been learned from Qatar, the athleticism every team had out there.

“It’s too big an ask probably for him, he might have been an impact player coming off the bench.

“There’s a mixture of emotions for me. I’m excited now because it’s an opportunity to get some of the young ones through – players like Brennan Johnson to take the opportunity and step up to the plate – and get the next Gareth Bale.

“But there’s also a hint of sadness because it’s the last time we’ll see Gareth Bale putting a pair of boots on for Wales.”

The Wales Team

Page claims that he has discussed with Bale the possibility of him being involved with the Welsh team, however the specifics of Bale’s job within the organisation are not yet known.

“I would love him still to be involved in some capacity, what that role is don’t know yet,” he said.

“It’s a big adjustment for him, going into a normalish life, but we’ll have another conversation with him in a few weeks.

“We’ll make a plan moving forward because he’s got so much to offer in a changing room and hotel environment.

“His presence is something I would be really keen on, to keep him involved, but I’ll leave it up to Gareth and what suits him and his family.

“You’ve seen Belgium do it with Thierry Henry. Ex-players stepping up, whether it’s a coaching role, an ambassadorial role, or being part of a committee making decisions.

“I’m sure the FAW (Football Association of Wales) would also be keen to keep Gareth involved in some capacity.”

LAFC

Bale had been named in the LAFC roster for their preseason camp on Sunday before the club was informed that he was retiring from the sport.

“It did surprise us in one sense but on the other hand, once he explained where he was at mentally and physically we completely understood and respected the decision,” LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington said at a press conference.

“We appreciate their forthrightness in coming to us when they did.

“Last year I think the frustration, mostly for Gareth but for us, is things were a bit stop-start at times.”

Bale started just two games after moving to the United States in June, scoring three goals in 13 appearances overall.

But Bale provided a lasting legacy as his stoppage-time header against Philadelphia Union took the MLS Cup final to penalties, which LAFC eventually won to lift the trophy for the first time.

Thorrington said: “I think there was temptation where that frustration would win the day when we talk about the narrative of what Gareth Bale’s time at LAFC meant here.

“We have an MLS Cup because of everybody, but without him we don’t have an MLS Cup.

“The ultimate conclusion of his story here in six short months is that it worked. He’s forever a part of LAFC history.”

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