Wales must navigate the play-offs in March to reach the European Championship finals next summer.

If they do so, it will be Wales’ fourth major tournament out of the last five.

Here, the PA news agency looks at their Euro 2024 story so far and what happens next.

How did Wales get here?

It has been a campaign of transition without talismanic captain Gareth Bale following his retirement in January and the loss of other key players such as midfielder Joe Allen.

Wales began well with a bonus point away to World Cup semi-finalists Croatia – courtesy of Nathan Broadhead’s stoppage-time equaliser – and a narrow home win over Latvia.

But a sour summer – back-to-beat defeats against Armenia and Turkey – would cost them dear, despite bouncing back with a 2-0 success in Latvia and a sensational 2-1 home victory over Croatia.

Wales had automatic qualification in their hands heading into the final two games, but ultimately fell short with closing 1-1 draws against Armenia and Turkey. Croatia and Turkey qualified as the top two in Group D.

Play-off scenario

Wales will discover at 11am on Thursday morning who their semi-final opponents will be on March 21.

Manager Rob Page will attend the draw in Switzerland to get a flavour of what stands in his side’s way.

It is a case of one from three countries as Finland, Iceland or Ukraine will be paired with Wales in Path A.

The winners of that tie will play Poland or Estonia in the play-off final on March 26 for the right to play at Euro 2024.

Home sweet home

Wales will have home advantage for the semi-final, which will be played at Cardiff City Stadium.

That is a huge boost for Wales who have had some special nights in Cardiff in recent times, and beat both Austria and Ukraine there in the 2022 World Cup play-offs.

The Nyon draw on Thursday will also decide who gets home advantage for the March 26 final.

Wales got the breaks in the 2022 World Cup play-offs with two home ties. Will they be as fortunate again?

Who do Wales want?

Ukraine are 22nd in the FIFA rankings, six places above Wales, and present the toughest test on paper.

They were third in England’s qualifying group and might already be preparing for Germany had they been awarded what appeared a certain stoppage-time penalty against Italy on Monday.

Finland won six of their 10 qualifiers and finished four points behind Denmark and Slovenia, while Iceland won only three times in 10 games and were a distant fourth to Portugal, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

Whoever they play, Wales enter the play-offs with confidence after an unbeaten six-game run of three wins and three draws.

Wales manager Rob Page has promised to “ignore the noise” amid reports that his job could be in jeopardy.

It was reported on Saturday morning – little more than 24 hours before Wales’ vital Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia in Cardiff – that Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney had wanted former Sunderland and Ipswich manager and TV pundit Roy Keane to replace Page following June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.

Page signed a four-year deal in September 2022, but Mooney confirmed this week that the manager’s position would be reviewed next month if Wales did not qualify for Euro 2024 automatically.

Wales are currently fourth in Group D and need to win their final three games against Croatia, Armenia and Turkey to realistically secure a top-two place and avoid the play-offs in March.

Page responded to the speculation over his future at his pre-match press conference for the Croatia game, saying: “We’ve got to ignore all the noise. It is noise and that’s it, so we try to protect the players as much as we can.

“I have not spoken to the chief executive at all, so I could not tell you whether it is true or not (that he is to be replaced).

“All I have to focus on is, before the World Cup I signed a four-year deal and the long-term plan for me is to start introducing young players into the group.

“We are in a transition period and we have said this time and time again. We have lost big players like Joe Allen and Gareth Bale. Not just for what they bring us on the pitch, but also the value they add in the changing room.

“We’ve seen the talent we’ve got coming through. We’re developing these young players and it’s going to take time.

“I get the frustration. We want to win games of football but there’s got to be a bit of perspective. I’m doing what’s best for the FAW, not myself. By introducing these young players, it is better for Wales in the future.”

Three members of Page’s coaching staff – Alan Knill, Ian Mitchell and Tony Roberts – took the unusual step of attending the press conference at the back of the room in an apparent show of unity.

“It’s a great gesture from the staff, not something I was ready for but I really appreciate it,” said a visibly-emotional Page.

“We are really close and everyone is pushing in the right direction. I wish the supporters and you guys (the media) could see what we’ve got in that changing room. It’s incredible. The staff here means a lot.

“We’re in an industry where everyone wants to win games of football. I feel the frustration as well but the bigger picture is we have a plan to introduce younger players for the future.

“I can’t worry about the business side of it, cost-cutting and all that. I’ve got a job to do as a football coach to get them in the right place, physically and mentally, to win games of football.”

Mooney told BBC Wales on Wednesday that a “serious review” would take place on Page’s position after the Armenia and Turkey games next month when “everything will be settled”.

Wales captain Ben Davies was critical of Mooney’s comments, saying: “It’s not helpful. We don’t want noise coming from within the organisation. We hope that everybody is on the same page.

“It is disappointing to hear, but as far we are concerned it’s not our focus. Our focus is the game against Croatia.”

Asked specifically about Page, Davies said: “We’re very supportive of the manager. It’s professional every day and everyone wants to come on camp.

“Having a manager always behind you and giving you support breeds loyalty and he deserves our support now.

“We’re a tight-knit group and I think that part of the reason we’ve had the success we’ve had over the years is because we all stick together.”

Wales defender Chris Mepham is in contention to start against Croatia, despite being out for a month with a hamstring injury.

Wales meet Croatia in a vital Euro 2024 qualifier at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday night.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five of the main talking points as Wales seek to keep their automatic qualification hopes alive.

Perfect finish needed

Turkey’s shock win in Croatia on Thursday has really thrown a spanner in the works. Wales had expected to be in a three-way fight with Turkey and Armenia for the second qualifying spot behind top speeds Croatia. Overtaking Croatia now looks like being Wales’ target, but a top-two spot only appears achievable by winning on Sunday and also beating Armenia and Turkey in their final group games next month.

Cardiff fortress

In a week when the UK and Ireland won the right to host Euro 2028 and the prospect of Wales returning to play at the Principality Stadium came into sharp focus, much has been made of making home advantage count at the Cardiff City Stadium. Wales have enjoyed some big nights there in the past, but that was often when Gareth Bale was in full flow and making the difference. A sell-out crowd will turn up in anticipation that Wales can make the stadium a fortress in the post-Bale era.

Moore the merrier

Kieffer Moore’s return to the fold is a big boost for Wales. Moore missed the last two Euro qualifiers after being sent off against Armenia in June. The 6ft 5in striker has had little game time at Bournemouth but Moore was in fine fettle during his 45-minute run-out against Gibraltar on Wednesday. Moore scored twice in the 4-0 friendly win to take his Wales goals tally to 12.

Creaking Croatia?

Croatia suffered their first-ever home defeat in a Euro qualifier against Turkey. But was it a one-off or something more meaningful? The 2018 World Cup finalists and 2022 semi-finalists are used to breezing through qualification but, having let two points slip against Wales at home, this campaign has been more challenging. Time might finally be catching up on midfield magician Luka Modric, 38 last month, while injuries to Tottenham winger Ivan Perisic and Hoffenheim forward Andrej Kramaric have hurt them.

Wales win overdue

Wales have proved accommodating opponents for Croatia, who they have yet to beat in seven attempts. Croatia have won four times with Wales’ best moments coming in three 1-1 draws. Simon Davies scored in a 2002 Varazdin friendly, Bale netted in a Euro 2020 qualifier in Cardiff, and Nathan Broadhead’s stoppage-time equaliser cheered Wales at the start of this campaign in March.

The UK and Ireland’s bid to host Euro 2028 is set to be officially approved later today.

Turkey’s withdrawal to focus on a joint bid with Italy to host Euro 2032 leaves the five-nation bid unopposed to host the tournament in five years’ time, with former Wales forward Gareth Bale adding a sprinkling of stardust to the presentation that will be made to UEFA’s executive committee alongside six youth ambassadors.

It emerged on Monday that England had requested to go through qualification for Euro 2028.

UEFA has reserved two ‘safety net’ host-nation berths should any of the five UK and Ireland bidders not qualify on merit, but the Football Association is understood to have already told UEFA that England are keen to go through qualification.

The FA is keen to keep the team competitive on the run-up to the finals, with Germany having struggled in friendly action in the build-up to Euro 2024. There are also concerns over the level of opposition they would be able to secure if they were limited to friendlies.

If more than two of the five hosts do not make it, only the two with the best record will secure host places. So there are no guarantees all five will be involved in the finals.

Ten stadia were included in the UK-Ireland’s bid submission in April. Six of the venues are in England, with one each from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The six in England are Wembley, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, St James’ Park, Villa Park and Everton’s new home at Bramley-Moore Dock.

A redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff are the other stadia included in the submission.

Even with Turkey in the running, the five-nation bid was the overwhelming favourite to be selected.

Senior UEFA sources have indicated the importance of another Euro in a major football market, following on from next year’s tournament in Germany, as European football’s governing body seeks to further replenish its reserves after the financial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The five nations released a joint statement last week following Turkey’s withdrawal, stating they had a “compelling” and “ground-breaking” proposal for UEFA to consider, which would deliver “lasting legacies” across the whole of Ireland and the UK.

Bid leaders estimate that the 2028 tournament is projected to generate around three billion euros (£2.6 billion) of economic benefit for the five host nations.

Gareth Bale will boost the bid from the UK and Ireland to host Euro 2028 by joining the Welsh delegation in Geneva next month.

Bale, the Wales men’s team’s most capped player and record goalscorer, retired from football in January after an illustrious career that saw him win five Champions League titles and three FIFA Club World Cups at Real Madrid.

The 34-year-old has now offered a helping hand for Wales to become a Euro 2028 co-host alongside England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Republic of Ireland.

Turkey are also in the running to stage the tournament, with the final decision to be made in Geneva on October 10 when Bale will be present.

Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney said: “We are hoping for a successful bid and Gareth is very much part of the FAW and what we do. He has been identified as one of the faces of the bid presentation.

“Gareth is globally famous. You can get into a taxi in Sydney or Peru and if you mention you are from Wales they will say ‘Gareth Bale’. It is an instant reaction.

“When I go home to the west of Ireland the first thing people say to me is ‘how is Gareth Bale?’

“Gareth is so good for us. We went to him and asked him if he would get involved in the Euro ’28 bid and he just said: ‘What can I do for Wales?’

“It was instant – ‘how can I help you get the bid over the line?'”

Ten stadia across the five nations would host matches if the Euro 2028 bid is successful – Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, Everton’s new Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium, Villa Park and St James’ Park being the venues in England.

A redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast, the Dublin Arena in the Republic, Hampden Park in Scotland and the Principality Stadium in Wales – the 74,500-capacity home of Welsh rugby – would also stage matches.

The Principality Stadium would be referred to as the Cardiff National Stadium during the tournament due to UEFA rules over sponsorship.

Wales hope to stage as many as six matches if the bid is successful, with Mooney having said last October that Cardiff could be in line to stage the opening game of the tournament.

Mooney said: “Six games for Wales has been mentioned before, but it is ultimately up to UEFA to decide on the division of games, qualification from the five host nations and things like that.

“We’re lucky in that we have a fantastic stadium to offer in a magnificent city. Cardiff hosted a very successful Champions League final in 2017 and UEFA were very happy with it.

“But we feel we can get more out of hosting a series of games than from a stand alone match.

“There were tens of thousands of Spanish and Italian fans in Cardiff for Real Madrid against Juventus, and they all had a great time. But they were gone the next day.

“What the 2016 Euros did for France as a brand, and 2024 will do for Germany, was fantastic.

“The Covid-hit Euros weren’t the same and the World Cup in Qatar was a different experience.”

Mooney is confident that work on upgrading the Principality Stadium to meet UEFA standards will be completed should the bid from the UK and Ireland prove successful.

He said: “Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government are backing the bid and are happy with the projected return on investment.

“Millions of pounds will need to be spent on the Principality Stadium to get it up to scratch. It needs new floodlights and a scoreboard.

“There are also issues over hospitality numbers and the TV compound. But these are all things that will be resolved.”

Wales feel the legacy left by Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and others at Euro 2016 has been integral to them qualifying for a first major youth tournament for over 40 years.

Later this month Wales will join the likes of England, France and Germany at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Hungary.

It is the first time Wales have qualified for a youth championship since a side featuring Mark Hughes reached the U18 European Championships in 1981.

“You talk about legacy and look at Euro 2016 (when Wales reached the semi-finals) and what players like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey did there,” said Wales U17 manager Craig Knight.

“These boys would have been eight, nine, 10 years of age at the time watching the tournament and that success would have resonated with them.

“It’s really real for those boys and the pathway is there to progress from a young age.

“It’s a real chance for these boys to perform on an international stage and that should motivate them and players at home.”

Wales have topped two qualifying groups to reach Hungary, finishing above the likes of Croatia, Scotland and Sweden.

The squad includes Leeds defender Charlie Crew, Manchester United striker Gabriele Biancheri and Plymouth winger Freddie Issaka, who became the Pilgrims’ youngest ever player at the age of 15 in August 2021.

Qualification has maintained the feel-good factor in Welsh football after the men’s national team qualified for the 2022 World Cup, their first for 64 years, after reaching the last two European Championships.

There has also been huge development in the women’s game and Wales reached a World Cup play-off for the first time in their history last October.

Knight said: “You have to keep aspiring to be the best you can, developing and evolving our environment.

“When we hosted the elite round of European qualifying we were staying at the same hotel as the first-team squad, who were flying out to Croatia and coming back for the Latvia game.

“The whole first-team coaching staff attended the Scotland game and watched training.

“Two of the boys took part in one of their training sessions because they needed an extra couple of numbers.

“Alfie Tuck, who scored the goal against Iceland, was stopped in the foyer by Aaron Ramsey, who congratulated him on his ‘great strike’.

“That’s how close we are, side by side with the senior side, and the boys feel it.”

Wales have been drawn against hosts Hungary, the Republic of Ireland and Poland this month.

The four semi-finalists will qualify for the 2023 FIFA U17 World Cup later this year, along with the winners of a play-off between the two beaten quarter-finals with the best record in the group stage.

Carlo Ancelotti compared Karim Benzema's relationship with Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo to the one the striker shared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, after his first-half hat-trick helped Real Madrid down Almeria.

Benzema needed just 42 minutes to complete another treble in a 4-2 win over the LaLiga strugglers, benefitting from fine assists from Vinicius and Rodrygo before converting a penalty.

Rodrygo then added a spectacular fourth from range, while goals from Lazaro and Lucas Robertone ensured Almeria kept the scoreline respectable at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

After the game, Ancelotti was asked whether Madrid's current forward trio could match the talents of those who fired Los Blancos to four Champions League titles in five seasons between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

"It's a good question," the Italian said. "They are similar in effectiveness and quality, with different characteristics of the players. 

"It's a different trio, but they are both very good. The 2014 trio was very dangerous and the trio now is also very dangerous."

Having also scored hat-tricks in resounding wins over Real Valladolid and Barcelona this month, Benzema has three trebles in eight games for Madrid – as many as he hit in his previous 120 club matches.

Asked about the Ballon d'Or holder's display, Ancelotti said: "Benzema is in good shape and he has shown it. 

"In attack we are very good, we are dangerous. Even while we are well behind [in LaLiga], the team comes out very well in offensive terms."

Gareth Bale rounded off a remarkable season at Tottenham by doing the double at the PFA Player of the Year awards on this day in 2013.

Bale beat off competition from Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Michael Carrick to win the senior prize for the 2012-13 campaign.

The Wales forward also took home the Young Player of the Year accolade, making him only the third player in history – after Andy Gray and Cristiano Ronaldo – to receive both prizes in the same season.

“It’s a massive honour,” Bale said.

“To be voted by your peers is one of the biggest things in the game. It’s great to win it and I am delighted.”

Ronaldo scooped both the young player and the main award in 2007, 30 years after Gray become the first professional to do so.

Bale claimed the senior award two years earlier after shooting to fame with a series of scintillating displays domestically and in the Champions League.

He went on to become an even better player, transforming himself into a goal-scoring machine that netted 31 goals in 52 appearances for club and country in 2012-13 before landing a world-record £85.3million move to Real Madrid that summer.

Bale went on to become one of British football’s most decorated players at Real, winning five Champions League winners’ medals, before retiring in January 2023.

A star-studded panel of Europe-based legends will be urged to "protect the game of football" by giving expert insight into hot topics including VAR and handball at a UEFA summit on Monday.

Coaches including Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello, Zinedine Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti, Gareth Southgate and Fabio Capello have joined the 24-man UEFA football board, along with superstar former players Paolo Maldini, Luis Figo, Gareth Bale, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Laudrup, Philipp Lahm and Robbie Keane.

There is one non-European on the board, with Inter's Argentine vice-president Javier Zanetti joining a throng that also includes former Germany team-mates Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann, plus Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, Rafael Benitez, Patrick Vieira and Eric Abidal.

The noticeably all-male board will hold its first meeting at UEFA's European House of Football headquarters on Monday.

European football's governing body said the group will "give an institutional yet independent voice of experience and expertise on fundamental football-related topics".

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "UEFA is delighted to see that the very ones who have shaped the game's history with their talents and philosophy through decades are gathered again around our common goal – to protect the game of football and its essential values. As we always say: football first!"

Ceferin is campaigning for clarity on football's handball rules, having recently described the law as "really obscure".

"No one understands it any more," Ceferin said. "So we really need a conversation here, finding solutions and clarifying some issues."

He said that would be an issue for the football board to look at, and it was confirmed on Thursday as being on the agenda for the meeting, along with discussions about the video assistant referee system, player behaviour and medical issues.

UEFA said its technical director and chief of football Zvonimir Boban would chair Monday's meeting, although he is not a member of the new board.

UEFA football board members: Jose Mourinho (Portugal), Carlo Ancelotti (Italy), Zinedine Zidane (France), Paolo Maldini (Italy), Fabio Capello (Italy), Javier Zanetti (Argentina), Luis Figo (Portugal), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Ronald Koeman (Netherlands), Gareth Southgate (England), Rio Ferdinand (England), Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Rafael Benitez (Spain), Roberto Martinez (Spain)
Predrag Mijatovic (Montenegro), Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany), Rudi Voller (Germany), Petr Cech (Czech Republic), Juan Mata (Spain), Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland), Patrick Vieira (France), Henrik Larsson (Sweden), Eric Abidal (France), Gareth Bale (Wales).

Gareth Bale bade an emotional farewell to Wales fans after his retirement, telling the supporters who "make it so special" they "are Welsh football" on Tuesday.

Rob Page's side made it four points from two games in Euro 2024 qualifying after Kieffer Moore scored in a 1-0 victory over Latvia at Cardiff City Stadium.

Wales fans were met by a familiar face prior to kick-off as Bale, who announced his retirement from professional football in January, spoke to the crowd to say his final farewell.

"I just want to say what an honour it has been to represent this country and play in front of the best fans in the world," he said.

"You've supported me and my family through the lowest of the lows and the highest of highs. I can't thank you enough."

Bale has been central to Wales' successes on the international stage, leading his country to their first European Championships in 2016, in which they reached an unlikely semi-final before defeat to Portugal.

The former Real Madrid winger scored in all three group-stage matches at that tournament, before Wales and Bale returned to the same competition five years later and progressed to the last 16 at Euro 2020.

A first World Cup appearance in 64 years followed for Wales as they made it to Qatar, with Bale scoring their first goal at the tournament in a 1-1 draw with the United States.

That campaign ultimately ended in an early exit and disappointment, but Bale urged Wales fans to get behind their side as he moves from the pitch to the stands to become a supporter.

"It's been the biggest pleasure playing in front of you for my whole career," he added. "Obviously I'm going to miss playing in front of you, but make sure you support the boys.

"You, the fans, are Welsh football, you make it so special, you make it what it is. I'll be cheering on like you lot, and hopefully I'll see you soon in the future. Thank you."

Aaron Ramsey has been appointed Wales captain after Gareth Bale announced his retirement from football in the aftermath of last year's World Cup campaign.

Former Real Madrid forward Bale retired from professional football at the age of 33 in January, having led Wales into their first World Cup campaign since 1958 in Qatar last year.

Having won a record-breaking 111 caps for his country, Bale will be succeeded by the man joint-seventh in their all-time appearance list – former Arsenal and Juventus midfielder Ramsey.

Ramsey moved to France in search of regular minutes following a frustrating loan spell at Rangers last term, and has made 21 league appearances since joining Nice on a free transfer last August.

The 32-year-old already has experience of captaining Wales after being named skipper by Gary Speed in 2011, though Chris Coleman opted to hand the armband to Ashley Williams one year later.

The announcement came as boss Rob Page named a 24-man squad for Wales' opening Euro 2024 qualifiers against Croatia and Latvia later this month, with the team looking to qualify for a third-consecutive edition of the tournament.

Page named four uncapped players in his squad for those fixtures, namely midfielders Jordan James and Ollie Cooper, Fulham youngster Luke Harris and striker Nathan Broadhead.

Former Tottenham and Wales legend Gareth Bale produced one of the top highlights from the amateur ranks while playing at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Bale, 33, retired from professional football in January after spending six months with MLS club LAFC.

Playing in his first PGA Tour event, Bale was partnered with Korn Ferry Tour Championship winner Joseph Bramlett, who he said he met around a year ago and has kept in contact with since.

"We met about a year ago and we have just been speaking over the year," he said. "I said to him last week 'let's prepare for this week' – he had a great week last week, and what a player.

"He is a world-class player. Just watching these players play, you can learn things and how they go about their business and how they do their process.

"It is just nice to watch and pick up things, their demeanour, their focus. It is different from what we were used to, but it is similar to my profession. We have similar traits, so fantastic playing with him today."

Bramlett is enjoying a terrific start to the tournament, tied for second at eight under through two rounds as he seeks his first PGA Tour victory, but he gave Thursday's shot of the day to Bale for his miraculous up-and-down off the cart path.

"I am more worried about how I found myself [on the path] in the first place, but I guess a lot of amateurs find themselves in that position," Bale said.

"It was a great shot and I just tried to play into the bank and hope for the best like most amateurs do.

"It was nice to see it roll up nice and close, and he was pretty much in for par so I was like 'I will pick it up' and [Bramlett] made me putt it because he was like 'this is going to be the greatest up-and-down'."

Hussein El-Shahat matched the exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale by scoring at a third Club World Cup as Al Ahly beat Auckland City 3-0 in the first round.

El-Shahat opened the scoring with a low 25-yard drive on the stroke of half-time in Tangier on Wednesday, before neat one-on-one finishes from Mohamed Sherif and Percy Tau made Al Ahly's victory safe.

The winger's effort took him to three goals in three editions of the tournament, having also found the net for Al Ain in 2018 and with his current club in 2021.

Ronaldo, Messi and Bale are the only other players to net at three separate Club World Cups, while Ronaldo is the competition's all-time top scorer with seven goals.

Ronaldo is also the only player to score for two separate champions at the tournament, doing so for Manchester United in 2008 and Real Madrid in 2016 and 2017, while Messi found the net during Barcelona's triumphant 2009, 2011 and 2015 campaigns.

Wednesday's game was also notable for referee Ma Ning announcing the rationale for his decision to send off Auckland's Adam Mitchell to the crowd after being sent to the VAR monitor, as part of a 12-month trial across FIFA tournaments.

Al Ahly's reward for their comprehensive win is a second-round tie against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, the winners of which will face European champions Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

Morocco's Wydad Casablanca will face Al Hilal in the other second-round fixture, with the victors going on to face Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo for a spot in the final.

Gareth Bale's golfing abilities have been described as unfair by Jon Rahm, with the 2021 U.S. Open winner declaring: "He has no business being that good!"

Bale, who famously celebrated in front of a flag adorned with the message 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order' when he led Wales to Euro 2020 qualification, retired from football earlier this month.

The former Real Madrid and Tottenham forward, who is renowned for his love of golf, recently announced he was planning to compete at the PGA Tour's Pebble Beach Pro-Am next month.

In preparation for that competition, Bale played nine holes of pro-am play at Torrey Pines with Rahm on Tuesday, making a good impression on the world number three.

"I told Gareth, 'you can't be so good at professional football and golf at the same time', it just doesn't seem fair," Rahm said.

"You can't be dedicated to one thing and have this much talent for golf, it's not fair in the slightest!

"You can tell he loves this sport, he loves golf and he really wants to get to play a little bit more, so hopefully in the future I'll see him more times in the pro-am."

Questioned on whether Bale asked him for any advice, Rahm said: "He didn't ask for anything, nor should he be asking, he's already good enough.

"Like I said, he has no business being that good when he's a professional football player. When he can actually practice more, he's going to get a lot better.

"He got two strokes, which I think is already wrong. He should be giving strokes back to the rest of the amateurs because he is a very, very good player."

Gareth Bale has wasted no time in grabbing the golf clubs after his retirement, announcing his participation in the upcoming Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The former Tottenham, Real Madrid and Wales player stepped away from football earlier this month following his participation at the 2022 World Cup, bringing an end to a glittering career that included winning five Champions League titles.

The 33-year-old confirmed on social media that he will be lining up alongside professionals and other celebrities at the golf event in California, which begins on February 2.

Bale wrote: "Delighted to announce I will be playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at the start of next month! Let's go."

It will surprise few given Bale's renowned love of golf, famously drawing the ire of Real Madrid fans when he posed with a flag while on international duty that read: "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order."

Other confirmed celebrities for the tournament so far include actors Bill Murray and Jason Bateman, as well as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

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