Wonder goals. Golf. Madrid. In that order.
After Gareth Bale suddenly announced his immediate retirement from football on Monday at the age of 33, thoughts inevitably turn to the magic moments the Welsh wizard provided during his storied and stellar career.
At his peak, the winger was absolutely unplayable, probably the third best player in the world behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and probably second – behind only Messi – in his capacity to create gorgeous goals out of nothing.
From his unique off-the-pitch scorching past Barcelona’s Marc Bartra, to a sublime overhead kick in the Champions League final, fans got used to seeing Bale’s trademark love-heart celebration and beaming grin after stunning strikes.
So below, Sportsmail‘s Max Mathews attempts to narrow down the long list of contenders and go through the top 10 Gareth Bale goals of all time.
Welsh wizard Gareth Bale announced his immediate retirement from football on Monday night
Thoughts of fans will now inevitably turn to the moments of magic he provided in his career
Below, Sportsmail rounds up the top 10 goals of former Real Madrid winger Bale’s stellar career
10. TOTTENHAM 1-0 Sunderland, May 19, 2013
In Bale’s final match at Tottenham before a then-record £86million move to the galacticos of Real Madrid, the north London side were desperately chasing Champions League football against lowly Sunderland.
The 90th minute, 25 yards from goal and not far in from the touchline, he took an ordinary first touch on his weaker right foot.
Such is Bale’s class, even that slight mis-step was woven seamlessly into his eventual masterpiece. The ball, spinning wickedly, kissed his chest before his left foot caressed it under his spell.
Nudge it forward, fake shift to his left, nudge it forward, real shift to his left, and swish. Nothing but net. What better way to show why the Spanish giants splashed that much cash on him?
9. Stoke 1-2 TOTTENHAM, August 21, 2010
You probably forgot about this goal, didn’t you. It’s early Bale – but don’t sleep on his early stuff.
Aaron Lennon, who provides the assist in many of the goals on this list, hangs up a floaty cross to the far post. Too high, too floaty. Stoke don’t mark Bale brilliantly, but they probably don’t need to.
It would be almost impossible to get anything on that, let alone a meaningful attempt at goal. Not unless you started tae kwon do aged two, not unless you had the physical flexibility of a Shaolin monk or the imagination of John Lennon on LSD.
Not unle- oh wait, he’s put it in the top corner. Postage stamp, not that poor old Thomas Sorensen would have saved it anyway. What daring. What technique. What genius.
8. REAL MADRID 5-1 Basel, September 16, 2014
Even the most ardent Bale hater couldn’t deny the beauty and simplicity of this filthy lob in a Champions League thrashing of Basel.
After an outside-of-the-foot through ball from Luka Modric – which, itself, by the way, could be hung in the Louvre – saw him clean through, one-on-one, but with the ball bouncing slightly awkwardly in front of him.
A good player would have waited for the ball to sit down before half-volleying, or just tried a slightly chancey lob. Bale wasn’t just a good player.
He launched it into the stratosphere, up and over a thoroughly bewildered, befuddled and bewitched goalkeeper, before watching it all the way onto the outside of his left foot to poke it into an empty net. Skip to 0.45 below for the magic.
7. Norwich 1-1 TOTTENHAM, January 30, 2013
Which solo run and sensational finish for Tottenham against Norwich in the Premier League do you mean? The fact there are two to choose from probably tells you everything you need to know.
NOT the one where he got it inside his own half and drove at a static defence before surging past a hapless Zak Whitbread, who looked, comparatively, to be running through treacle, and dinking it impudently over the ‘keeper. Although that was great.
I mean the one where he got it inside his own half (again), almost the edge of his own centre circle, breezed past Alex Tettey, cut inside and, when fans and defenders were expecting perhaps a trademark curler, walloped it into the corner.
Ten touches with his left foot is all it took. He’s one-footed, some critics argue. When one is that good, who cares?
6. WALES 2-1 Scotland, October 13, 2012
Wales vs Scotland, World Cup qualifier, late 2012. 88th minute. Gareth Bale starts to go on a run from inside his own half – but is quickly and cynically barged to the ground by big Charlie Adam.
‘Clever free kick to give away,’ said the commentator. And maybe so. But you can’t switch off against Bale, not when you’ve made him angry. Ten seconds later, Wales tap it short to Bale. The Scotland midfield has retreated 20 yards or so.
Adam is opposite him again. By the time he’s realised the danger, it’s too late. Bale lets fly, almost from the far corner of the penalty area, and it whistles into the top corner. Bedlam in the stands. Oh, Charlie.
5. WALES 2-1 Austria, March 25, 2022
In addition to the undoubted quality and quantity of the goals Bale scored, he also scored them when it mattered, coming up clutch on multiple occasions for Spurs, Real and Wales.
He did so again last year in his country’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying play-off win against Austria. The first was a quintessential slice of Bale, the only free kick on this list despite there being many worthy of it.
About 25 minutes in, about 25 yards out, that trademark run-up, kisses the crossbar on the way in, thanks for coming. He scored the second, too, by the way. Colossal cojones on the Cardiffian captain.
4. West Ham 2-3 TOTTENHAM, February 25, 2013
An underrated and underappreciated derby, this one. Not top of the list for either side (read: Millwall and Arsenal respectively) but still with enough London bite and wanton hooliganism to be a serious rivalry.
After putting Spurs 1-0 up on the 20th anniversary of Hammers legend Bobby Moore’s death, Bale saw Andy Carroll convert a penalty and Joe Cole put the hosts ahead. He then delivered the free kick which led to Gylfi Sigurdsson equalising.
But he wasn’t done yet. When Joey O’Brien dumped him unceremoniously to the turf, referee Howard Webb played a good advantage, before Sigurdsson and little Tommy Carroll played it back to the Welshman.
With West Ham standing off, Bale could jink around the ball, pivoting 180 degrees and touching it onto his left foot to set up a viciously arcing, arrowing strike past Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the top bins, sparking stupendous limbs in the away end.
3. Inter Milan 4-3 TOTTENHAM, October 20, 2010
Perhaps the game that truly announced Bale on the world stage. Inter were 4-0 up at the San Siro against a Spurs side that were down to 10 men after Heurelho Gomes’ red card and, by all accounts, certain to progress. Then Bale took over.
Picking the ball up about 70 yards from goal, he went between Champions League-winning defenders Maicon and Javier Zanetti like they were made of candy floss, motored forward and then slammed it into the bottom corner from a tight angle.
The keeper didn’t even move. He repeated the trick – same foot, same corner – twice more, his second rinsing the same two players again and sending them to the corner shop for a packet of salt-and-vinegar crisps and a Twirl, his hat-trick making it 4-3.
In the second leg, he produced a White Hart Lane masterclass, effectively ending poor old Maicon’s career and setting up goals for Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko as Harry Redknapp’s side won 3-1 to progress 6-5 on aggregate.
Bale effectively ended the career of Maicon (right) with a devastating hat-trick vs Inter Milan
2. REAL MADRID 2-1 Barcelona, April 16, 2014
Copa del Rey final, 2014. El Clasico: Barcelona vs Real Madrid, two of the best sides in the world, the line-ups packed with world-class talents. A neutral venue filled up half-and-half with fans from the two biggest sides in Spain.
Locked at 1-1, 85th minute, crying out for a moment of magic. Bale is played the ball and receives it on the halfway line. Defender Marc Bartra, though, has covered it well, closing him down swiftly to narrow his time and options on the ball.
He knocks it long, very long, past Bartra, and as Bartra swings across to block his run, he is pushed a full five or six yards off the pitch, into the manager’s pitchside area.
Bale curves back towards the goal like an Olympic sprinter, galloping as if taking on a bend in the 200metres, and by the time he reaches the ball Bartra is long gone.
He ran off the pitch before scoring a famous winner against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final
Five yards behind after a five-yard headstart, in the dust, cartoon stars orbiting his head. Bartra’s so far away he might as well be sitting on his childhood sofa in Sant Jaume dels Domenys in the province of Tarragona.
He’s not just been forgotten as an opponent. He’s been forgotten as a footballer. His parents briefly forgot he existed. Anyway, Bale advances into the box, goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto comes out to narrow the angle, cut off the chip.
Bale puts it past him anyway. He celebrates in front of the Barcelona end as Los Blancos die-hards weep with the sheer emotion at the other end of the stadium, thanking God for his gifts.
Bartra taken off two minutes after the goal and, to this day, is best known as the man marmalised by Bale on that fateful day eight years ago.
1. REAL MADRID 3-1 Liverpool, May 26, 2018
Not sure what words I can use to do this justice. The biggest club game in the world and he does this. Frankly a bit of a wayward weak-foot cross slung in by Marcelo, and he guides a glorious parabola of an overhead kick into the net.
None of this ‘Wayne Rooney shinning it against Man City’ nonsense. This was a silly, silly goal.
Please enjoy it forever. I’ll never get bored of seeing it. And what a way to round off this list.