The true story of Gareth Bale and the Liverpool dressing room as ex-Real Madrid man retires

Gareth Bale has today called time on his football career, retiring from participating for club and country with immediate effect.

The 33-year-old most recently represented MLS side LAFC and saw his final involvement within the sport arrive during the winter World Cup in Qatar as Wales crashed out in the group stages. Many expected this to be Bale's final tournament with the Dragons, though his decision to stop playing altogether has come as a surprise to some.

Explaining why he has taken his path, the former Tottenham Hotspur star released the following statement: "After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football. I feel incredibly fortunate to have realised my dream of playing the sport I love. It has truly given me some of the best moments of my life.

READ MORE: Liverpool have 'two lists' of targets as transfer outlook for January and summer explained

READ MORE: Liverpool could swoop for ex-Manchester United player to solve growing squad problem

"To my previous clubs, Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and finally LAFC. All of my previous managers and coaches, back room staff, team mates, all the dedicated fans, my agents, my amazing friends and family, the impact you have had is immeasurable. My parents and my sister, without your dedication in those early days, without such a strong foundation, I wouldn't be writing this statement right now, so thank you for putting me on this path and for your unwavering support. My wife and my children, your love and support has carried me through."

Bale will undoubtedly go down as one of Britain's finest exports, having won multiple major honours during his nine-year stay with Real Madrid. In addition to this three La Liga titles, the Welshman won an astonishing five Champions Leagues - two of which arrived at the expense of Liverpool.

The most recent of those experiences arrived back in May as Carlo Ancelotti's side secured a narrow win over the Reds in Paris, though Bale failed to feature during the 90 minutes of action. His impact in Madrid's Champions League final triumph over Liverpool in 2018 was far more memorable, however, scoring twice from the bench in a 3-1 victory. His acrobatic effort which left Loris Karius rooted to the spot will remain one of the finest finishes seen in a fixture of this magnitude.

In the days following the final in Kyiv, it was reported Bale had spent 20 minutes inside the Liverpool dressing room to console beaten Reds players. Bale allegedly used the majority of his time talking to his former Southampton colleague Adam Lallana, who he played with at St Mary's in 2006, and Wales international team-mate Ben Woodburn.

A conversation between Bale and Lallana did take place. However, this occurred in the drug testing room after both players had been called for a mandatory doping test by UEFA after the full-time whistle. The jet-heeled winger then saw Woodburn in the corridor afterwards, and spent a brief period conversing with his Welsh compatriot.