Gareth Bale is adamant he is on a “good path” to be in prime condition to lead Wales at their first World Cup finals tournament in 64 years, despite not completing a full game since signing for Los Angeles FC.
Bale has started two matches and made nine substitute appearances since moving to the US in June. He joined the Major League Soccer club after leaving Real Madrid. The 33-year-old forward’s most recent appearance was as a 63rd-minute substitute in LAFC’s 3-1 win against Houston on Monday.
The Wales captain arrived in Cardiff on Tuesday evening and trained on Wednesday morning with the squad. He continues to work to a tailored fitness programme and believes he is slowly building towards Wales’s World Cup Group B opener against USA on 21 November in Qatar.
“I haven’t played 90 minutes yet, which is what I’m building up to,” Bale said. “We’re on a good path to where I want to be. I want to play 90 minutes as much as I can but I understand I need to build up to that because I haven’t done it an awful lot in the last few years.
“The most important thing for me is to take each week as it comes and hopefully that will be good enough for me to help LAFC and, ultimately, be ready for the World Cup. We have a plan in LA with what we’re doing. We’re not doing too much straight away. Every footballer wants to play as much as they can but we’re being clever and building myself up for the last important part of the season. Hopefully, that should put me in great shape for the World Cup.”
The Wales manager, Rob Page, said he was “surprised with how fresh” Bale looked on arrival.
The 18-year-old Birmingham midfielder Jordan James has received his first Wales senior call-up after Joe Allen and Ben Davies withdrew because of hamstring and knee injuries respectively. Wales play in Belgium on Thursday before hosting Poland on Sunday in Cardiff.