How does it feel to be nominated among the best three players in Europe?
It’s a fantastic honour. You don’t just get these individual awards on your own, you get them through playing for your team and to be nominated is amazing. I have to give a big thanks to all my team-mates at international and club levels. Obviously I want to win trophies with my team, with my country, and when you do that you get put up for awards like this.
What were your highlights of last season?
Winning the Champions League final. It’d been a long hard season and it was a very difficult final against Atletico Madrid, but we kept going, kept fighting and ultimately got the prize we wanted. We felt confident we could win, although they always make it difficult for us. My ultimate memory is the penalty shoot-out – having cramp and just being able to go and take the penalty. Some nights they go in for you, some they don’t. But that night we all stepped up, we all did our job and no matter how you win, it’s always great.
Where does last season rank in your career?
Right up there – it was an incredible season, especially topping it off by winning the Champions League and then going on to the EURO and doing an amazing job with Wales. They were two great moments in my career, in my life.
That was your second UEFA Champions League win in three years …
This is the reason I came to Madrid – to play in the Champions League, to win the Champions League. Two in three years is an amazing achievement. Now we want to look to the next one. It’s obviously a massive motivation for us all to be the first team to retain the Champions League.
How great an influence has Zinédine Zidane been?
He’s got that experience of winning as a player and obviously as a coach [as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant] when we won the first Champions League. He’s massively helpful to everybody and his experience showed in the end.
And how about your team-mate Luka Modrić?
Luka is vitally important. He is an amazing player, I have played with him for a long time and I am obviously very honoured to play with such a great player. He’s the hub of the team, he makes things tick, he’s just an all-around good footballer.
The next UEFA Champions League final will be in your home town …
After winning the first Champions League, I knew the [UEFA] Super Cup was in Cardiff, so it was an amazing moment for me personally. But to have the Champions League final in my home town is an even bigger motivation.
How do people feel about football in Cardiff and Wales generally?
Everybody is mad for football, especially after the European Championship where we were able to perform so well. But we don’t want to make it just a one-time thing. We want to keep fighting to qualify for all the major championships. Football is hopefully on the rise more than ever. And I think the city of Cardiff itself is growing and is now attracting big sporting events.
Bale is vying with Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann for the 2015/16 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. The winner will be announced during Thursday’s group stage draw in Monaco.