GARETH BALE - arguably Wales’ greatest ever player - has announced his retirement from football.

Bale, Wales’ most-capped men’s player with 111 appearances and a record-breaking 41 goals for his country, said: “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. The highest of highs over 17 seasons, that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.”

Speculation over Bale’s future has constantly been debated in recent seasons with his playing time at club level limited but his importance to Wales has never waned and he fired them to a first World Cup since 1958 with a deflected winner against Ukraine last summer.

He left Real Madrid not long after to sign for Major League Soccer outfit Los Angeles FC and scored in his final club outing in November to help them win the MLS Cup with a penalty shoot-out success over Philadelphia Union.

It would prove the 17th trophy won by Bale during a glittering career and provided him with momentum ahead of Wales’ historic return to the world stage this winter.

Bale scored from the penalty spot in his country’s 1-1 draw with USA, but defeats to Iran and England saw Wales bow out in the group stage in Qatar.

While the five-time Champions League winner insisted that he may carry on, the Cardiff-born attacker has now decided to hang up his boots.

“My decision to retire from international football has been by far the hardest of my career,” said Bale, who signed a then-world record fee of £85.1million when he left Tottenham for Real Madrid.

The attacker was central to four of the five Champions League titles won by Madrid during his spell and memorably scored a wonder goal in the triumph over Liverpool in 2018.

Bale added: “I feel indebted to many people for helping to change my life and shape my career in a way I couldn’t have ever dreamed of when I first started out at nine years old.

“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.”

Portugal, meanwhile, have announced the appointment of Roberto Martinez as new national team manager.