Gareth Bale will lead Wales into World Cup action charged by having a “positive impact” on his Real Madrid return, says manager Robert Page.
Bale was the subject of fierce retirement rumours ahead of Euro 2020 this summer but said after Wales’ round-of-16 defeat to Denmark that he would never end his international career as long as he is playing football.
The 32-year-old Wales captain spent last season on loan at Tottenham but has returned to Real Madrid to see out the final year of his contract at the Bernabeu.
Bale has started the first two games under returning Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti, scoring his first LaLiga goal since September 2019 in Sunday’s 3-3 draw at Levante, and Page has named him in his 27-man squad for a Helsinki friendly with Finland and World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia next month.
“Gareth’s not changed who he is. Players will tell you different managers have different thoughts in how they want to play and whether they take to you as a person or as a player,” said Page, referring to Bale’s fall-out with previous Real boss Zinedine Zidane.
“He probably found that before in his experience at other clubs.
“He’s got a manager now who’s been impressed in what he’s done in pre-season and watched him through the Euros.
“That’s all he can influence. Give his best in training and show what he’s all about and he’s going to start playing games.
“Thankfully he’s had a positive impact on the manager and started the season in good form. He’s scoring goals, which is great for us.”
Wales resume their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign having opened with a 3-1 away defeat to group favourites Belgium and a 1-0 home victory over Czech Republic in March.
The Belarus game will be played at a neutral venue in the Russian city of Kazan as teams from the United Kingdom and the European Union are unable to enter the eastern European country by air due to sanctions against the Minsk government.
He’s got a manager now who’s been impressed in what he’s done in pre-season and watched him through the Euros.
But Page – who is once again in charge of Wales with manager Ryan Giggs absent – insists Bale’s ambition to play at a World Cup burns bright, saying: “As a player, manager and coach you want to be part of a World Cup.
“These boys will go down in history if they qualify.
“Of course he’s going to want to be a part of that. He’s no different, but to do that you just can’t turn up and play for Wales.
“You’ve got to give it your best and play for your club. There’s no argument there, he’s ticking all the boxes.”
Bale and Aaron Ramsey have not played together in a qualifier since Wales beat Hungary to qualify for the Euros in November 2019, largely due to the Juventus midfielder’s injury problems.
But the pair were reunited at Euro 2020 and most notably linked up as Ramsey scored from a brilliant Bale pass in the 2-0 win over Turkey.
“They were tremendous working together (against Hungary) and showed it in the Euros again,” Page said.
“They are in good form coming into this camp, which is really pleasing for me and the Welsh supporters.
“We want our players playing competitive football week in and week out, it’s no different for them two.
“I’m not surprised after the tournament they’ve had that they’ve gone back and started the season well at their clubs.”
St Pauli defender James Lawrence returns to the Wales squad after missing Euro 2020 through injury.
QPR midfielder George Thomas and Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson are also added.
But Swansea pair Connor Roberts, who is currently recovering from a groin injury sustained against Denmark in June, and Ben Cabango miss out, the latter having had Covid-19.
Squad: W Hennessey (Burnley), D Ward (Leicester), A Davies (Stoke), C Gunter (Charlton), B Davies (Tottenham), E Ampadu (Chelsea), C Mepham (Bournemouth), J Rodon (Tottenham), N Williams (Liverpool), T Lockyer (Luton), J Lawrence (St Pauli), R Norrington-Davies (Sheff Utd), ), J Allen (Stoke), J Morrell (Portsmouth), M Smith (Hull, on loan from Man City), D Levitt (Dundee Utd, on loan from Man Utd), A Ramsey (Juventus), J Williams (Swindon), H Wilson (Fulham), D Brooks (Bournemouth), G Thomas (QPR), R Colwill (Cardiff), B Johnson (Nottingham Forest), G Bale (Real Madrid), D James (Man Utd), K Moore (Cardiff), T Roberts (Leeds).
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