Gareth Frank Bale was born in Cardiff on 16th July 1989 and is the nephew of former Cardiff City player Chris Pike.
At the age of 9, Bale was playing in a 6-a-side tournament for Cardiff Civil Service FC when he was spotted by talent scouts from Southampton. He went on to train at the Premier League sides satellite academy in Bath shortly afterwards and began his journey towards a professional career.
Whilst training with Southampton, Bale also played for his school team at Whitchurch High in Cardiff. He was a great athlete, running 100m in just over 11 seconds at the age of 14, but his passion lay with football. Such was his footballing talent, the schools PE teacher had to write a list of rules Bale had to abide by as to give the other kids a chance.
Before leaving school, in the summer of 2005, Bale helped the Under-18’s to win the Cardiff & Vale Senior Cup and was awarded with the PE departments prize for services to sport.
Bale made his Southampton debut, against Millwall on 17th April 2006, at the age of 16 years and 275 days. It made him the second youngest player in Saints history, 132 days older than Theo Walcott was when he made his first team debut.
A little over a month later, on 27th May, Bale came on as a substitute to make his senior Wales international debut in a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago. At just 16 years and 315 days, he became the youngest player in Wales’ history.
His first league goal for Southampton came from a free kick against Derby County, on the opening day of the 2006/07 season. He netted again in the following game and by December had scored five goals, which isn’t a bad return from a left-back. He also became Wales’ youngest ever scorer on 7th October 2006, with a free kick against Slovakia in a Euro 2008 qualifying match.
Bale was named BBC Wales Young Sports Personality of the Year in December 2006 and capped an amazing first season as a professional by being named Football League Young Player of the Year.
After 45 appearances for Southampton, Bale was signed by Tottenham Hotspur for an initial fee of £5m on 25th May 2007. The fee eventually rose to £7m but was a relatively small amount to pay for someone with his obvious potential.
He scored his first Spurs goal in his second competitive appearance for them, against Fulham and also found the net against Arsenal and Middlesbrough to make it three goals from his first four starts. His tremendous start to life as a Tottenham player was halted when he suffered an injury on 2nd December 2007, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.
Bale signed a contract extension after his return from injury but poor performances saw him dropped from the side, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto taking his place. The Cameroon international made the position his own and remained there until the end of the season.
Surgery for a knee injury in June 2009 meant more time out of the team and continued good form from Assou-Ekotto made it hard for Bale to reclaim his place when he returned to full fitness.
The chance in the first team came again when Assou-Ekotto suffered an injury. Bale played an important role in helping Tottenham to qualify for the Champions League and he became a pivotal part of the Spurs starting line-up.
The 2010/11 season saw Bale switch positions, with manager Harry Redknapp moving him into a more attacking role on the left wing. It was initially done to accommodate both Bale and Assou-Ekotto in the team but it turned out to be a tactical masterstroke from Redknapp. The Welshman excelled as a fast attacking player and cemented his place in the first team.
After several outstanding performances, Bale was named Welsh Player of the Year by the FAW and also won BBC Wales’ Sports Personality of the Year award. At the end of the 2010/11 season, he was voted PFA Player of the Year and was named in the UEFA Team of the Year for 2011.
Bale moved into the realms of becoming a football superstar in the 2012/13 season, with several world-class performances including a Boxing Day hat-trick against Aston Villa. A great season ended with him being named PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Football Writers Association Player of the Year. He became only the second player to ever win all three awards in the same season, after Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007.
In September 2013, after playing over 200 games for Tottenham, Real Madrid announced they had signed Bale for an undisclosed fee. Leaked documents a few months later confirmed they had paid a world record transfer fee of over £85m to secure the signing of the Welsh wonder.
The first half of his first season in Spain was blighted by injury but he came back stronger than ever and ended the season as a hero, with the winning goal in the Final of the Copa Del Rey and an extra-time goal in the Champions League Final to help Real Madrid win their tenth European title.
After a first season in which he scored 22 goals and assisted 16 from 44 games, much was expected of Bale but his form dipped the following season. Even though he scored the winner in a 2-0 victory over San Lorenzo to win the Club World Cup, his performances weren’t up to scratch and he was booed by sections of the Madrid fans.
The 2015/16 season saw a return to form for the Welshman, with him scoring four goals in a match against Rayo Vallecano and a hat-trick against Deportivo. He also played a pivotal role in helping his country qualify for Euro 2016, their first major tournament finals since the 1958 World Cup. Unfortunately, he suffered a calf injury and would have to miss two months of action.
When he returned, he wrote himself into the record books again with a goal against Sevilla. It was his 43rd La Liga goal, which meant he overtook Gary Lineker as the highest scoring British player to ever play in the Spanish league.
Bale was a regular starter as Real Madrid won the 2015/16 Champions League, before he headed to France to play for Wales in the European Championships. On the 11th June 2016, he scored Wales’ opening goal of the competition against Slovakia and followed up with goals against England and Russia as his country topped the group.
Those three goals made him Wales’ all-time top scorer at a major tournament, overtaking Ivor Allchurch (2 goals in the 1958 World Cup).
Gareth Bale, who nearly missed out on a contract with Southampton due to his size, has transitioned from a promising left-back into one of the best attacking players in the world. He has scored 118 goals from 371 appearances at club level and is Wales’ joint fourth highest scorer of all-time. His 22 goals from 59 caps has him level with Dean Saunders and just six behind Ian Rush, who tops the list with 28 goals.
At the age of just 26, Bale has many more years at the top level ahead of him to fulfil all of his ambitions. There are plenty more trophies and awards to be won and the world class forward will no doubt break many more records before his career is over.