Gareth Bale delivered a catalogue of magic moments throughout his playing career; From destroying Brazil full-back Maicon to score his first senior hat-trick against the European champions at the San Siro to helping Wales reach the World Cup, here we run through his greatest goals.
Gareth Bale ranks as British football’s greatest-ever export.
Five Champions League titles at Real Madrid – the same number of European football’s biggest prize that Barcelona have managed in their history and two more than Manchester United – three FIFA Club World Cups and over 100 goals for the Spanish giants.
Yet that was not the driving force of a career that saw a supposedly-cursed left-back turn into one of the best forwards of his generation.
Sky Sports runs through 10 of his most iconic goals.
1. Bale does it on warm afternoon in Stoke
Bale celebrates his brilliant goal against Stoke
It is quite remarkable to think that Bale wasn’t renowned for his finishing in his early career. Curiously, following his £10m move from Southampton, Tottenham failed to register a win during his first 24 Premier League appearances.
But after going more than two-and-a-half years without scoring, a spell which included the first red card of his career, Bale struck winning goals in successive matches as Spurs beat London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in April 2010. It was only in the following season when his eye for goal fully exploded.
It wasn’t quite a wet Wednesday but at the beginning of the 2010/11 season, Bale truly underlined his attacking prowess with a sublime volley at Stoke.
His conversion from a full-back to a makeshift winger under Harry Redknapp was still in its infancy, which perhaps explains why he was given time and space to arrow his left-foot shot past Thomas Sorensen from Aaron Lennon’s cross into the top far corner.
2. Ordering a Taxi for Maicon
Injuries and managerial changes at White Hart Lane stunted his development and there was speculation Bale would be loaned out.
But he soon began to show his potential and hit new heights in a Champions League tie against Inter Milan in October 2010.
Bale destroyed Brazil full-back Maicon to score his first senior hat-trick against the European champions at the San Siro.
Ten-man Spurs, who had goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes sent off in the eighth minute, lost the match 4-3 but it was the night a star was born and the phrase ‘Taxi for Maicon’ entered football’s lexicon.
Bale repeated his man-of-the-match performance in Spurs’ 3-1 second-leg win and his stratospheric rise saw him named PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2011 and 2013 – just the fifth player to win the award twice at that point.
3. Bale wins it at the death at Upton Park
Bale was by now Tottenham’s talisman and it was his eighth goal in a six-game period in February 2013 which Spurs supporters view as one of his greatest for their club.
At the home of London rivals West Ham, a topsy-turvy contest was decided in the final minute in quite stunning fashion.
Picking the ball up in a central area some distance from goal, he worked it on to his favoured left foot and arrowed a shot which dipped over Jussi Jaaskelainen’s outstretched right hand and into the top corner.
Bale was named PFA Young Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year in 2013. After scoring 31 goals for club and country in the 2012-13 season, it was clear that Spurs would struggle to keep Bale – and Real Madrid paid a world record fee of £85.3m to sign him on September 1, 2013.
4. A glorious end to his first season at Real
Bale’s spell at Real could be split into two halves: He burned brightly at first in a breath-taking BBC strike force – Bale, (Karim) Benzema and Cristiano (Ronaldo).
He scored an incredible 2014 Copa del Rey final winner against Barcelona, running from the halfway line and off the pitch at one point. Bale galloping onto the touchline at the Mestalla as he burns Marc Bartra is a lasting image of his time at the club.
“Bartra pushes me and tries to block me but he couldn’t,” said Bale at the time. “I had to go around him. It was brilliant to score but it’s even better to win the game and the Cup.”
Having outpaced Bartra, he then scored from a tight angle – the 20th goal of his first season in Spain and his maiden strike in a Clasico fixture.
Then-head coach Carlo Ancelotti said of Bale’s winning goal after the game: “It’s definitely his most important goal and it came in a crucial moment of the game. He had a great game. Every player was great because they played as a team. To beat Barcelona, you have to play as a compact team and that’s what they did.”
5. A first Champions League trophy
Bale also put Real ahead in their Champions League final victory against Atletico Madrid later during the 2013/14 season. Indeed, he became the first Welshman to score in a Champions League final by heading home in the 4-1 extra-time success over their neighbours.
The Welshman had actually been quiet and missed two fine chances before making himself a legend with the pivotal goal. Adding La Decima to Copa del Rey glory was not at all bad for his first season in Spain.
“I’ve learned from past experience to keep going, forget about the chances you’ve missed and keep persevering,” said Bale on the pitch at Lisbon’s Estádio da Luz.
“Thankfully I got the decisive goal. It was great to see it go in. I came here to play in big competitions and win trophies. This is what every footballer dreams of and it doesn’t get any bigger in club football. Lifting that trophy is a feeling you can’t describe and it will be a memory I will never forget.”
6. The overhead kick in Kiev
Of Bale’s 100-plus goals for Madrid, perhaps none are more iconic than his overhead-kick in the Champions League final against Liverpool in 2018.
It is often forgotten that Bale started the game on the bench but it would end with quite possibly the high point of his club career.
After agony and ignominy, he would deliver a moment befitting of the showpiece, his 64th-minute overhead kick sealing a 13th European Cup for the Spanish giants and their fourth in five seasons.
From the edge of the 18-yard box, it gave Real a 2-1 lead and it is rightly regarded as one of the greatest goals in Champions League history.
Bale became the first substitute to score twice in a Champions League final and was named player of the match.
7. The European adventure in France
Wales was where it was at for Bale, the Cardiff boy who had first gone to the Millennium Stadium with his father Frank as a 10-year-old to watch his idol Ryan Giggs play.
For Bale, representing Wales meant the world.
He scored three times at Euro 2016 as his country enjoyed a fairy-tale run to the semi-finals of the competition in France, upsetting Belgium along the way.
After scoring the all-important opener in the 2-1 victory against Slovakia in the group stages, Bale also put the seal on a 3-0 win over Russia – but it was his free-kick against England which will have brought him the greatest satisfaction, albeit ultimately in defeat.
It would not derail Chris Coleman’s men, however, in their memorable run to the final four.
8. Bale steals the show against Austria
Wales moved one step closer to their first World Cup since 1958 as Bale stole the show in a 2-1 win over Austria in the play-off semi-final last March.
Bale scored both of Wales’ goals – the first a quite majestic free-kick from 25 yards that flew into the top corner before smashing home a clinical second.
Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones wrote in his match report: “Bale came into the game with doubts over his fitness after missing Sunday’s El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. He also knew that, with his 33rd birthday fast approaching, this year’s World Cup acts as the last chance of him appearing on football’s biggest stage.”
Make no mistake, this was one of his greatest nights and when Wales truly began to believe their 64-year wait would end.
9. Sealing Wales’ World Cup spot
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.
The decisive first-half finish was originally recorded as an Andriy Yarmolenko own goal as the former West Ham forward stooped to inadvertently head in a Bale free-kick.
It was possibly one of his scruffiest goals but arguably the most important, with it only officially being credited to him a whole three-and-a-half weeks later. It also meant Bale had scored all three of his country’s goals in their two play-off games, underling his talisman status.
10. His final club career goal
Bale signed to Los Angeles FC in June 2022 but he started only two MLS games and while he was a shadow of his former self, he carried with him his penchant for being a big-game player.
His knack of being in the right place at the right time was witnessed in his very last club appearance.
He scored in his final club outing in November to help LAFC 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’s career in numbers
111 – Record number of caps for Wales’ men’s national team.
41 – A national men’s team goal-scoring record, eclipsing the previous best of 28 by Ian Rush.
85 – Real Madrid made Bale the most expensive player in world football when they signed him from Tottenham for £85.3million in September 2013.
5 – Champions League titles at Real Madrid.
106 – Goals scored at Real Madrid.
4 – Clubs Bale played for: Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and Los Angeles FC.
16 – Bale was 16 years and 315 days old when he became the youngest player to play for his country on May 27, 2006. Harry Wilson claimed the record in October 2013 when he played against Belgium at the age of 16 years and 207 days.
17 – Became Wales’ youngest ever goal scorer on October 7, 2006 – scoring against Slovakia in a Euro 2008 qualifier with a trademark free-kick.
2 – First Wales player to score two international hat-tricks – against China in March 2018 and Belarus in September 2021.
7 – Goals in Euro 2016 qualifying as Wales ended a 58-year wait to play at a major tournament.
3 – Goals against England, Slovakia and Russia at Euro 2016. In doing so, he became the first player to score in all three group games at the Euros since Milan Baros and Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004.
2 – Free-kicks. Deadly set-pieces at Euro 2016 saw Bale become the first player to score two free-kicks at a European Championship since Germany’s Thomas Hassler in 1992.
58 – Became the first Wales player to score at a major international tournament for 58 years with his swerving free-kick against Slovakia.
64 – Bale became the first Wales player to score at a World Cup for 64 years in Qatar. The previous goal had been scored by Terry Medwin against Hungary at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.