Gareth Bale bid farewell to Real Madrid and earned another honor on Wednesday this time from Queen Elizabeth II.
In the Queen's Birthday Honors List, the five-time Champions League winner, whose Madrid contract expires this month after nine years, was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE.
Bale received the award for services to sport and charity while on international duty with Wales, which coincides with the 96-year-old monarch's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
The 32-year-old forward will be hoping to lead Wales to its first World Cup since 1958 on Sunday in a playoff final against Ukraine in Cardiff.
He's also looking for a new club after declaring his retirement from Real Madrid earlier this week. He had no chance of re-signing with the Spanish champions, having fallen out of favour with the club that had signed him for a then-world-record fee of 100 million euros (now $107 million) in 2013.
Bale, despite being Britain's most decorated export, was unable to consistently perform to his full ability at Madrid and endured harsh criticism from fans and the media.
But Bale struck a positive note in his farewell message.
“I arrived here nine years ago as a young man who wanted to realize my dream of playing for Real Madrid,” he said in a letter posted on Twitter. “To wear the pristine white kit, to wear the crest on my chest, to play at the Santiago Bernabéu, to win titles and to be part of what it’s so famous for, to win the Champions League. I can now look back, reflect and say with honesty that this dream became a reality and much, much more.”
“Together we were able to create some moments that will live forever in the history of this club and football,” Bale said. “It has been an honor.”
“Real Madrid would like to express its sincere gratitude and affection to Gareth Bale, a player who will forever be part of the club’s legacy,” the club said.
“Real Madrid is and always will be his home, and we would like to wish him and all his family the best of luck for the future.”
“I write this message to say thank you to all my teammates, past and present, my managers, the back room staff and to the fans that supported me,” he said, not touching on his feuds.
Earlier this year, Bale spoke out against the psychological harm that professional athletes can receive from the media after a leading Spanish sports daily published a column entitled “The Welsh Parasite.” Bale accused the media of “encouraging anger and disappointment in fans” during a season when he made only seven appearances and scored one goal for Madrid.
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