London (AFP) – Wales manager Rob Page wants Gareth Bale to stay involved in the international set-up after the star forward announced he was hanging up his boots.
Bale, a five-time Champions League winner at Real Madrid, ended a glittering career on Monday after winning 111 caps and scoring 41 goals for his country — both national records for the men’s team.
The 33-year-old’s decision to quit came after Wales’ disappointing 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 contacted him on Sunday to inform him of his decision to retire, and said he was in full agreement with his captain.
“I told him I think it’s the right time to bow out,” he told the BBC. “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, perhaps with a role as an impact player off the bench.
“There’s a mixture of emotions for me,” he said. “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.”
Page said he had spoken with Bale about his staying within the Wales set-up, although the exact nature of any potential role remains unclear.
“I would love him still to be involved in some capacity, what that role is I 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.”