Gareth Bale's last dance? Wales' World Cup clash against Ukraine could be the forward's greatest game, but it might also be his final outing... helping his side reach Qatar would mean as much as winning five Champions Leagues with Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale's last dance? Wales' World Cup clash against Ukraine could be the forward's greatest game, but it might also be his final outing... helping his side reach Qatar would mean as much as winning five Champions Leagues with Real Madrid

  • Wales will take on Ukraine in Cardiff on Sunday for a place in the World Cup 
  • The play-off match could be Gareth Bale's greatest game or his last for Wales
  • His bicycle in 2018 Champions League final is deemed as his best moment
  • Helping Wales qualify would mean as much as winning five Champions Leagues

Gareth Bale goes into Sunday's World Cup play-off knowing it could be his greatest game, or his last. If he takes Wales to their first World Cup finals since 1958 it will mean every bit as much as the five Champions Leagues he won with Real Madrid

His greatest moment with the Spanish club came in Ukraine in 2018 when he decided the European Cup final with an acrobatic volley against Liverpool. Now, he faces Ukraine and if he can lead Wales to victory it will eclipse even that night in Kyiv.

Bale, 32, has offers to continue playing regardless of how Sunday's gam ends. If Wales lose and he decides not to quit, the MLS appears to be the most likely destination. There has been an air of imminent retirement since last year when he said he would weigh up his options once Euro 2020 had ended. 

Gareth Bale is set to line up for Wales when they take on Ukraine for a place in the World Cup, and it could be his last dance for the Dragons

Gareth Bale is set to line up for Wales when they take on Ukraine for a place in the World Cup, and it could be his last dance for the Dragons

Gareth Bale is set to line up for Wales when they take on Ukraine for a place in the World Cup, and it could be his last dance for the Dragons

There are similar noises being made this time. Everything is on hold so he can focus on Ukraine, to such an extent that he has not been informed of the clubs who have approached his team in recent days. 

Cardiff have expressed an interest in signing Bale and Wales head coach Robert Page said a spell in Cardiff to prepare for the finals would ‘make sense’. Page rested Bale for Wales’ Nations League defeat by Poland and that has been the story of his season. 

He started the first three games in the league for Real Madrid but then did not start another match until February and played only 16 minutes in the final 14 games of the campaign. 

Bale's best moment for Real came when he scored a bicycle in 2018 Champions League final

Bale's best moment for Real came when he scored a bicycle in 2018 Champions League final 

Despite minimal participation and the animosity that cast a shadow over his final three years, supporters gave him an ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid’s end of season celebrations. It was recognition of his achievements, and there will be an enduring fondness of his ability to score in the most important of games.

That volley against Liverpool in Kyiv won all the polls last week which asked fans to select his best moment. And when the same polls posed whether his impact had been negative or positive, the latter won at between 70 and 80 per cent. 

The fact that the question even needed asking was a reminder of his fallout with Zinedine Zidane and his non-existent relationship with local media, who took offence at him declining to give interviews in Spanish. 

Bale helping Wales qualify for the World Cup would mean as much as the five Champions Leagues he won with Real Madrid

Bale helping Wales qualify for the World Cup would mean as much as the five Champions Leagues he won with Real Madrid

Unfavourable coverage meant he got a harder ride from fans who never saw the funny side of his ‘Wales, Golf, Madrid (in that order)’ flag response to the claims he only stayed fit to play for his country. 

In the final half of the season he seemed to just be hanging on for the last dance with Wales. And now the game that matters most to him has arrived. One of the more surreal moments at Madrid came after he hit a hat-trick in the 2018 Club World Cup.

The Madrid media moaned that he saved himself for big games instead of performing every week. Players who shared trophies with him at the Bernabeu never minded that important goals in big games came at the expense of playing more regularly. The formula will definitely do for Wales tomorrow.

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