Gareth Bale watched from the bench as Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the Champions League in Paris

Gareth Bale has said his Real Madrid “dream became a reality” in a statement marking his departure from the Spanish giants.

Bale’s spell with Real will end when his contract expires this summer.

The 32-year-old has won a string of titles at Real, though he has been criticised by some sections of the media and some fans in recent years.

In a post on social media,external-link Bale described his time at the club as “an incredible experience”.

“I write this message to say thank you to all my team-mates, past and present, my managers, the backroom staff and to the fans that supported me,” Bale said.

“I arrived here nine years ago as a young man who wanted to realise my dream of playing for Real Madrid.

“To wear the pristine white kit, to wear the crest on my chest, to play at the Santiago Bernabeu, 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.”

Last Saturday’s victory over Liverpool means Bale leaves Real with a joint-record five Champions League titles to his name.

He was on the bench for the Liverpool triumph, but has been a bit-part player this season having spent the 2020-21 campaign on loan at former club Tottenham Hotspur.

Bale has won three La Liga titles with Real, plus three Club World Cups and three Uefa Super Cups and the Copa del Rey, since joining from Spurs for 100m euros in 2013.

However, he has been heavily criticised by some sections of the Spanish media as well as some supporters.

He fell out of favour under former boss Zinedine Zidane and there have been suggestions he was more committed to playing for Wales than representing Real.

Bale hit back at a newspaper column in March which called him a “parasite”.

His statement on leaving Real was complimentary, and featured thank yous to president Florentino Perez and the club’s board.

“To be part of this club’s history and to achieve what we achieved while I was a Real Madrid player, has been an incredible experience and one I will never forget,” Bale added.

“Together we were able to create some moments that will live forever in the history of this club and football. It has been an honour. Thank you. Hala Madrid.”

Bale is currently with the Wales squad for four Nations League games as well as Sunday’s World Cup play-off final against either Scotland or Ukraine.

It is not yet known where he will be playing club football next season, with Tottenham and Cardiff City touted as potential suitors and speculation he could move to Major League Soccer.

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