WALES captain Gareth Bale has been awarded an MBE for services to football and charity in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
The 32-year-old is arguably British football’s greatest export after a trophy-laden nine-year spell at Real Madrid.
But his acceptance of the award is likely to cause waves. Columnist Leigh Jones said Mr Bale’s fanbase, who have seen him as the embodiment of Welsh national identity, will be “completely shattered” by the news.
Mr Bale became the first UK player to win the Champions League on five occasions when Real beat Liverpool in Paris on Saturday – his final involvement for the Spanish club.
The Cardiff-born forward, who is Wales’ record goalscorer, began his career at Southampton and joined Tottenham in 2007.
Mr Bale was twice named Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year at Spurs before moving to Real in 2013 for a then-world record fee of £85 million.
He won LaLiga three times among many titles with Real and scored more than 100 goals, including three in Champions League finals – one against Atletico Madrid in 2014 and two versus Liverpool four years later, the first of which was a stunning overhead kick.
He inspired Wales to qualification for the 2016 and 2020 European Championships, and will lead the way in their World Cup play-off final on Sunday.
Mr Bale donated more than €1 million to hospitals in Wales and Spain in April 2020 in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, and has also supported other charities in his home country.
Liverpool midfielder James Milner, who has spent two decades in the Premier League, also receives an MBE.
The 36-year-old was part of the Reds’ squad which won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup this season, but missed out on the Premier League and Champions League titles.
Former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was awarded an OBE, also for services to football and charity.
The 43-year-old won 81 England caps and six Premier League titles, and helped United to Champions League success in 2008.
Mike Summerbee, a star of the Manchester City side of the 1960s and 70s, receives an OBE, as does former Watford and England striker Luther Blissett.
Blissett is a patron of the Sporting Memories Foundation – a charity that tackles dementia, loneliness and depression through the power of sport.
Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers Association, has also been awarded an OBE, while former Scotland goalkeeper Alan Rough has been made an MBE.