Gareth Bale: Wales forward urges governing bodies to protect players’ well-being

Gareth Bale free-kick against Ukraine
Gareth Bale’s deflected free-kick was the only goal as Wales sealed World Cup qualification against Ukraine
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Saturday June 11th Kicking off: 19:45 CET
Cover: Live on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text online. Highlights on BBC One Wales from 10:20pm BST and later on request

Wales striker Gareth Bale has urged football governing bodies to put player welfare ahead of money.

The 32-year-old warned there would be consequences if the packed 2022 football calendar continues.

Bale, who is a free agent following his sacking from Real Madrid, added he is looking for regular club football next season in preparation for the World Cup.

“You have to take care of the players, without the players there is no product,” said Bale.

“There will be consequences in the long term, people’s bodies can’t handle a calendar like this year after year.

“Something has to change, the people at the top have to do something, but unfortunately money comes into play.

“At the end of the day it’s a business, but for the welfare of the players, money has to be overlooked.”

Wales meet Belgium in the Nations League on Saturday, a fourth game in 10 days, before traveling to Rotterdam next Tuesday to play the Netherlands.

In May, Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne criticized the scheduling of internationals so soon after the club’s season ended, calling the Nations League “unimportant”.

Bale called for the number of games to be reduced to protect players.

“Someone mentioned to me over lunch the other day that Kevin de Bruyne could play 79 [games] next season after only a three-week break,” he said.

“It’s too much, obviously things need to change, any player will tell you there are far too many games.

“It’s impossible to play at a high level for so many games.”

There has been much speculation about Bale’s future at club level, including links with hometown club Cardiff City.

The striker said he has not had talks with any club so far but is simply looking for regular playing time to get himself in top form for the World Cup.

“I just have to play games and then it can start [in Qatar]’ Bale adds.

“I think once I play football normally again my body will become more robust instead of being in and out.

“It’s difficult when you’re going in and out of a team to find a rhythm in terms of fitness and health.

“You want to play to get fit for the World Cup and to help the club you’re playing at. Wherever I go it’s going to be a win-win because I’m going to play and hopefully play well while I’m improving prepare for the World Cup.”

No question ‘the long-term manager’ page

Gareth Bale and Rob Page
Wales’ 19-game unbeaten home win ended on Wednesday against the Netherlands

Welsh players and fans will be talking about their World Cup qualification up until the start of the tournament in November.

Bale, whose deflected free-kick sealed his place in Qatar, says the players’ relationship with boss Robert Page and his backroom staff has been fundamental to the success they have had in recent years.

Page emerged as interim manager in November 2020 after Ryan Giggs was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend, allegations he has denied.

Since Page took charge, he led Wales out of the group at last year’s Euro 2020 before ending the nation’s 64-year wait to qualify for a World Cup.

“I think he’s the long-term manager,” said Bale. “I don’t think there’s a question in the dressing room or from the fans.

“He did an incredible job and came in under difficult circumstances.

“Everyone has a great relationship with him, we can have a little bit of fun but when we have to work hard we do, it’s a great balance.

“Even his backroom staff with Alan Knill and Kit Symons were incredible, so we achieved great things.”

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