Gareth Bale is reportedly ready to step away from club football at the end of next season, but will remain available for Wales for the 2022 World Cup should the Dragons qualify. Bale has been the top performer for his country in the last two European Championships. His displays carried the Dragons in the last four of Euro 2016 where they were only beaten by eventual winners Portugal.
Bale was still excellent in Euro 2020, although not quite at the standard of the previous tournament. He was not carrying a great deal of form into the Euros after enduring an up and down season on loan at Tottenham. The 31-year-old failed to find the back of the net and was searching for sharpness in the final third. Whether he could produce his peak form at a major tournament without playing regular club football is debatable.
England’s Sterling proves club form isn’t everything
Raheem Sterling did not have a great season for Manchester City in 2020-21, but his performances for England in Euro 2020 have been nothing short of outstanding. He scored England’s first three goals at the tournament and has continued his fine form deep into the competition. With Sterling drawing a foul to be awarded the decisive penalty in the 2-1 win against Denmark, the Three Lions are priced at 13/8 in the Italy v England betting odds to win inside 90 minutes and lift a major trophy for the first time since 1966. Considering that the forward’s place in the side was in jeopardy before the start of the tournament, Sterling proved that he could flick the switch at the start of the competition even after a campaign well below his high standards for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Therefore, Bale could well be on form for the World Cup in Qatar even without half a season of action under his belt. Wales would no doubt have warm-up games, allowing the forward to find his match fitness ahead of the tournament. However, if he retires from club football, it would be difficult for Bale to find his sharpness in front of goal. At the same time, Robert Page and the Wales backroom staff would be keen for their star man to retain his feel of a regular game against a good standard of competition.
At the peak of his powers in 2016, Bale entered the Euros off the back of one of his best seasons for Real Madrid. In 31 appearances he scored 19 goals, displaying a clinical edge in front of goal. It was evident that Bale was ready for the tournament at hand and his play in the final third was sumptuous.
Where next for Bale?
The 31-year-old remains under contract for another season at Real Madrid, but Tottenham also have the option of extending his loan deal. Returning to Spurs to potentially play alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min on a consistent basis could be the perfect tonic to persuade him to extend his tenure in club football.
Tottenham or another club in the Premier League would then be in prime position to offer him a contract ahead of the World Cup. You do not get many opportunities at the ultimate prize in international football, and Bale will want to make sure that he arrives in Qatar fit and firing. Therefore, he might just need a nudge in the right direction to ensure that he continues to operate at a high standard until the end of the competition for his and his country’s benefit.