Wales manager Rob Page says captain Gareth Bale needs to play regularly at club level next season if he is to lead the country at their first World Cup in 64 years.
The 32-year-old Bale led Wales to a first World Cup since 1958 as it beat Ukraine 1-0 in their playoff in Cardiff on Sunday but he is without a club after leaving Real Madrid, where his playing time had been limited by injury .
Wales beats Ukraine to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2022
“He understands what he needs to do. Gareth’s problems in the past have been when he’s not playing week in, week out,” said Page at a news conference on Tuesday.
“There was the Belarus game when he was undercooked coming into camp and ended up getting a little tweak in his calf, so he understands he needs to play.
“That will be his plan. I’m not lying when I say I haven’t got a clue what he’s doing. I haven’t had that conversation yet,” added Page on the eve of the Nations League clash against the Netherlands in Cardiff on Wednesday.
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“It’s up to him and his family to decide what’s best for him to get him in the right frame of mind for November.
“It’s going to be as simple as that. It might even be as short term as that. He’s worked ever so hard throughout his career. He’s the ultimate professional and he’s earned the right to lead our country at a World Cup.
“Whatever he does from now until then is really important for him to get himself in the very best physical condition.”
Bale played just 20 minutes of club football between March’s World Cup playoff semifinal win over Austria and Sunday’s victory over Ukraine, where his free kick was deflected into the net to ensure a 1-0 victory.
But Page said it would be unrealistic to pick Bale for the World Cup if he was not playing at a club next season.
“I still think he can play in the Premier League. I think he’s got a lot to offer. I see it daily. But whatever level he goes into it needs to have that competitive edge to it, where he’s training with a group of people day in day out and then playing the games as well.
“You can do all the training in the world but it doesn’t replicate what you face in a game,” the Wales manager added.