Gareth Bale says becoming Wales’ all-time record goalscorer could be “the best achievement” of his career.
Bale’s hat-trick in Wales’ 6-0 win over China in the China Cup saw him reach 29 international goals, one more than Liverpool legend Ian Rush.
When asked where the record ranks in his illustrious career, Bale said: “It is right up there, maybe as the best.
“I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honour.”
He added: “I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honour and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career.
“On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”
‘I never dreamed of being a record-breaker’ – Bale
Bale says the presence of new national boss Ryan Giggs provided Wales with a lift.
“Everyone obviously wanted to impress the new manager,” Bale said.
“There are certain things he is going to do differently and it was a great start under him. We know what he expects of us, but we know we have to keep building on this.”
Assessing his place in history, Bale reiterated his view that the international stage is the pinnacle.
“Obviously you don’t really have time to think of your achievements when you are drained, but yes, it is right up there, if it is not the best achievement I have done,” he explained. Anything you do for your country is the pinnacle, it is the biggest honour you can have.
“As I’ve said, it’s a massive honour to break any record for your country which is great.
Bale’s hat-trick against China, in Giggs’ first game in charge, took him to 29 goals in 69 appearances. Rush reached 28 in 66 games.
Giggs paid tribute to Bale and tried to explain the significance of breaking Rush’s record.
“What can you say about ‘Baleo’, breaking someone like Ian Rush’s record? Ian Rush is one of the greatest goalscorers who has ever lived,” Giggs told BBC Sport Wales.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic achievement. He lifts everyone as he has an X-factor. He can hurt any team in the world.
“Once upon a time I think this was a record people thought would never be beaten.
“It’s a fantastic moment for Gareth and he fully deserves it.”
Gareth Bale went to school with former Wales rugby captain Sam Warburton
Bale’s was the first Wales hat-trick since Robert Earnshaw scored three times against Scotland in 2004.
His first goal for his country came back in October 2006 when the then 17-year-old curled in a consolation free-kick against Slovakia in a 5-1 defeat.
Ten years later and Bale would score Wales’ first goal at a major tournament since 1958.
Once again, a left-footed free-kick against Slovakia would be the recipe for success, but this time Wales would go on to win and begin what was a memorable Euro 2016 campaign.
At the age of 28, Bale, who had been stuck on 26 international goals since November 2016, will almost certainly go on to extend the record even further.
His last hat-trick for his club side Real Madrid was against Deportiva La Coruna on 9 January 2016.
China Cup: Chris Gunter is a Wales legend say his Chinese super fans
Gunter also makes history in Nanning
Wales’ new all-time record scorer was not the country’s only history-maker in China.
Winning his 86th cap, Chris Gunter becomes Wales most capped outfield player, passing the total of 85 reached by his former manager Gary Speed.
Gunter made his Wales debut in 2007 against New Zealand, a 2-2 friendly draw which proved to be Giggs’ penultimate international appearance.
Gunter is now just six caps short of goalkeeper Neville Southall’s record at the age of just 28.
“It’s a great achievement for Chris, he’s been so consistent for Wales,” Giggs said.