Wales captain Gareth Bale has said he is “deeply humbled” after being 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.
He 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.
Bale said: “Receiving an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list is a very proud moment for my family and I.
“To be given this news as we prepare to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee makes it feel even more special.
“I joined a football academy at the age of nine, so the sport is a defining part of my identity. I recognise the privilege of being able to do what I love, and for all of the incredible moments, experiences, achievements and memories football has given me. I hope I have been able to give just as much back.
“Football is my whole life and I am deeply humbled to be recognised by the Queen.”
The Cardiff-born forward, who is Wales’ record goalscorer, began his career at Southampton and joined Tottenham in 2007.
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 £85million.
He won LaLiga three times among many titles with Real and scored over 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.
Bale donated over one million euros 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.
Ferdinand said on Twitter: “It’s an absolute honour to be recognised on the Queens Birthday Honours list. Growing up in Peckham, I never dreamt this would ever be a possibility so to be recognised with this honour is surreal. It’s a proud day for me and my family! Thank you.”
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.
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