Gareth Bale raises Cardiff hopes by refusing to rule out second-tier clubs

Gareth Bale has suggested the status of his next club is unimportant and refused to rule out a move to a team below the top flight. Cardiff City, Bale’s hometown club, are thought to be interested in signing the 32-year-old and are among the options the Wales captain could explore with his family, representatives and international manager, Robert Page, in the coming weeks as he prepares to lead Wales at their first World Cup for 64 years.

Bale will become a free agent upon leaving Real Madrid after nine years, during which he won 16 trophies, including five Champions Leagues. Asked directly if Cardiff are among the options for next season, Bale replied: “I can’t really say.”

However, he did not seem too concerned about whether the standard at which he plays his domestic football next season will be a prominent factor when he decides his future. “I haven’t really thought too much about that at the moment. It’s something I need to sit down and go through, not just with my family but with the manager here, the physios here that we use, to see what would give me the best chance of being fit come November and December.

“I don’t really know if the standard makes too much of a difference, to be honest. Football games are football games. I feel like I’ll never really lose my quality on the ball so I guess it’s a conversation to be had.”

Bale, whose only appearances outside a top division came at the start of his career with Southampton, acknowledged that getting his next move right holds the key to arriving in Qatar in supreme condition, after feeling undercooked in the buildup to Wales’s playoff final against Ukraine.

“It’s going to be massively important,” he said. “I need to make sure I’m playing games and I’m as fit as possible. For example, coming into this camp now I wasn’t fit at all, I didn’t have much game time at all. Sometimes I’m able to get away with it, but ideally I want to be going into a World Cup playing games and being as fit as possible and being able to be as effective as I can for as long as I can.”

Cardiff finished 18th in the Championship last season and a move to the MLS has also been mooted. “I know possible destinations,” said Bale, who intends to look at his options after Wales’s Nations League match in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Bale also sought to myth-bust on the subject of his fitness and hobbies. “I’ve been available for quite a lot of the games in Spain even prior,” he said. “Sometimes you just don’t get picked so people assume that you’re injured; it’s just that perception. People think I play a lot of golf but I actually don’t; people think I’m injured a lot but I’m actually not. ”

Page has allayed fears over Joe Allen’s hamstring injury but the midfielder will not feature against the Netherlands. Neco Williams is not fit enough to travel and Danny Ward (knee) and Joe Morrell (broken toe) will also miss out. Rhys Norrington-Davies is suspended so Sorba Thomas could start at right wing-back.