Gareth Bale's wonder-goal in the Copa del Rey final kick-started an incredible few months for Real Madrid's Welsh wizard − he reflects on his year of glory with FourFourTwo...

Cope del Race

“What was going through my head? Just: get… the… ball. I knew that if I got past [Barcelona's Marc] Bartra it would be pretty much just me and the keeper, with a great chance to score what would probably be the winner. I didn’t realise how far off the pitch I was, because I was purely focused on getting out of his rugby tackle and reaching the ball.”

You can't please everyone

“I love this shot of me running off and celebrating the goal with Xabi Alonso [right]. Just look at all the Barça fans swearing behind me! Oh yeah, and there’s one Real Madrid fan in there, loving it. They were amazing scenes. The emotion, the occasion – it was incredible, as were the celebrations afterwards.”

The scream

[Laughs] “This is the funniest picture! I don’t know whose hand it is, but someone’s ripping my hair out! My mate saw this shot the morning after the final and sent it to me, actually, so it’s a favourite of mine. Scoring in a Champions League final is an incredible moment. I’d been at Wembley for Manchester United against Barcelona a few years ago, so to be in the thick of it was amazing. It’s great to be reminded of it.”

The incredible bulk

“How many hours in the gym were responsible for this? Zero, I promise you. I don’t usually wear a vest, so no one sees my arms! I did a bit of running in the off-season, but nothing else. I’d played a fair bit of golf, so maybe it was from my golf swing. It could also be from the tan I’ve got from living in Spain! I just think I’ve filled out a bit and it’s just natural.”

The ultimate homecoming

“This was a special moment for me, personally, because I was back in my hometown to lift a trophy that very few players win. It was almost surreal being there with Real Madrid and not Wales, but it was a fantastic feeling to have all my friends and family in the stadium to watch. It’s something I’ll always look back on with great fondness.
“In the Champions League final friends brought a flag over from Wales and were sending me pictures of the journey. It was the same here. I spotted them after the game and tied it around me [left]. I’m very proud to be Welsh; it was a great moment.”

Celebrations against Cyprus

“I didn’t actually know the camera was on me after the game; the reaction was spontaneous. Everybody knows how much Wales means to me. It’s the ultimate honour to play for my country and obviously I want to qualify for a major tournament. I think this picture shows how much I want it.
“It’s looking good at the minute, but we can’t get carried away. We know it’s a tough task because we’ve never done it before, but I’m certainly looking forward to the challenge ahead. Being in France for Euro 2016 would be an amazing experience.”