CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Gareth Bale declared himself in “very good shape” and ready to play “whatever is necessary” for Wales in its World Cup playoff against Austria, days after pulling out of Real Madrid’s humiliating loss to Barcelona in the Spanish league.
Bale wouldn’t expand on what caused him to withdraw from contention for Madrid ahead of its 4-0 loss on Sunday, saying “I don’t need to give anyone anything to use against me.”
The 32-year-old forward has only played around 80 minutes of club soccer since August but said Wednesday he was fit to play in one of the biggest games in Wales’ history, with the country two wins from qualifying for a World Cup for the first time since 1958. Beat Austria on Thursday and Wales will advance to a playoff final against either Scotland or Ukraine, a game most likely to be played in June.
“Everyone has niggles now and again,” Bale said. “I’m good, I’ve been training for the last 2½ months — I got some minutes three weeks or so ago so I am in very good shape.
“I’ve been training the last couple of days. Ready to play whatever is necessary tomorrow and give it everything.”
Bale will have been at Madrid for nine years by the end of this season and his latest contract at the Spanish club, which he joined from Tottenham in 2013 for a world-record fee of 100 million euros ($132 million), expires in June.
He was unwilling to discuss what could come next in an illustrious career that has drifted in recent years, saying his focus is getting Wales to the World Cup.
“I know that thinking about the future can cause doubts in your own mind so I’ve not been thinking about that,” Bale said. “I’ve just been focusing on this game coming up and whatever happens in the future, I’ll decide in the future.”
Asked whether losing in the World Cup playoffs could lead to thoughts of retirement, Bale said: “I haven’t planned for anything after yet, because I want to completely focus on this.
“I’m just taking each game as it comes, go from there. I’m not thinking about the future because I need to concentrate on now and the future is only a distraction.”
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