Wales icon and Real Madrid legend Gareth Bale surprised everyone on Monday, as he released a statement announcing his retirement from the beautiful game.
The 33-year-old had been plying his trade for MLS side LAFC prior to the announcement, and the general expectation was that he would continue doing so.
But with his World Cup appearance with Wales in the rearview mirror, his retirement seemed inevitable close.
With the announcement, Bale drew the curtains on a remarkable career, filled with individual and team honours.
In summary, the Welshman won 5 UCL titles, 3 LaLiga titles, and 3 Club World Cups, and he even has a Premier League Player of the Season honour to his name.
Most players can only aspire to a CV like this, and with so many accomplishments to his name, comparisons to other greats of the game are only natural.
One obvious candidate, who fans have frequently stacked Bale up against, is his former El Clasico rival Neymar.
The pair spent the prime of their careers at Real Madrid and Barcelona, making up a third of MSN and BBC.
The 6 stars that made up the legendary trios have long been considered to be the greatest players of our generation, and the exact ranking assigned to them is a topic of intrigue.
While Messi and Ronaldo have 1st and 2nd place firmly locked down, the 3rd spot remains vacant.
And as per the claims of many fans, it belongs to either Neymar or Bale.
Despite having different career paths, trophy cabinets and even playstyles, the duo have an equally strong claim to the spot.
After the announcement of Bale’s retirement, a debate sparked on Twitter centred around this topic, fans flocked behind their preferred player and numerous arguments emerged.
Pro Bale –
Fans in the Welshman’s corner wasted no time in pointing towards his incredible trophy haul, which dwarfs Neymar’s in comparison.
Being a part of Real Madrid’s iconic ‘Threepeat’ side is also a major plus for the 33-year-old.
Then there’s his efficiency in crucial games, from roasting Marc Batra near the touchline to that bicycle kick against Liverpool, Bale made sure to turn up when he was required the most.
His individual accolades at Spurs and accomplishments with Wales further cement Bale’s argument.
While the silverware may lean towards the Welshman, the stats remain in the Brazilian’s corner.
In support of Neymar, fans pointed to his incredible 2014/15 UCL run, which statistically overshadows any of Bale’s Champions League campaigns.
Additionally, Neymar has always been a part of the Ballon D’or picture, while Bale has never really been a true contender, pointing to a difference in quality.
Longevity also works in Neymar’s favour, as the 30-year-old is regularly producing high-quality displays with PSG.
In contrast, 30-year-old Bale spent the season at Spurs for a forgettable loan spell, and his form didn’t pick up from thereon either.
Then there’s the ‘eye test’.
Most fans who witnessed Neymar balling at his very best would vouch for the Brazilian, as the forward is easily among the most skilful players to ever grace the pitch.
In comparison, Bale’s playstyle was a lot more straightforward, the Welshman rarely pulled out elaborate tricks and normally used his pace to dash past opposition players.
It certainly did the job, but Neymar’s displays remain a notch ahead.
The debate will likely rage on forever, fans of the Brazilian will make ‘Joga Bonito’ argument, while those in Bale’s corner will counteract it citing his ‘clutch DNA’.
This means that there’s no outright winner yet, at least as far as Football Twitter is concerned, although that might change by the time Neymar decides to hang up his boots.