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So what’s the deal with Carlos Vela and LAFC?

Pun intended!

Austin FC v Los Angeles FC Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Carlos Vela has quite possibly the weirdest contract situation in MLS, a league full of rather weird contracts, and so far, no resolution to the major question hanging over LAFC’s season.

Vela is out of contract on June 30, which is just over two weeks away! LAFC’s leading scorer and captain is on the verge of leaving the club in the middle of the season. Letting a team’s best player walk in the middle of an MLS season, absent a major transfer windfall, is pretty much unprecedented.

Of course, it’s possible he won’t be going anywhere, a new contract will be signed any minute now and announced, and the situation will be resolved. But it’s possible he walks out the door and doesn’t come back. For a team that still relies on him quite heavily and without any murmurings of a concrete move abroad, what in the world is happening?

We’ve been told several times by very credible reporters and pundits that Vela would be re-upping with LAFC imminently, a deal announced any day. It’s been like that for a solid three months, and still no news.

Vela has said repeatedly he wants to stay in Los Angeles, and in English-language answers, has said more than once he’s waiting for the contract. At this point, it looks like he’s not waiting for any offer at all, but rather the right contract that will get him to re-sign.

Opinion seems to have soured to an extent on Vela, which is strange in a few ways. In 2020 and 2021 he dealt with a lot of injuries, and look, those happen. For those mad that Vela isn’t scoring 1.2 goals per game across a whole season anymore, I would say that 2019 was a pinnacle year, one that won’t be repeated. Does that mean he no longer holds value? Of course not. But that MVP season was the best in league history, and the cliché about regression to the mean holds particular sway here. Even so, I would argue “baseline good” Vela is still a player worth having on LAFC.

Another way of putting this for those who are questioning whether Vela should continue past this month with the club: Who would you get to replace him? Obviously at some point LAFC will indeed need to move on, but be careful what you wish for. If we assume LAFC have been working to bring Vela back, then we can also assume they do not have a marquee-name, team-carrying superstar waiting in the wings to take over. Instead, the team would probably need 1-3 transfer windows before they even got a deal for Vela’s true replacement over the line. And while LAFC have shown this year they can perform at times without him, I think it’s foolish to say LAFC are better without Vela, because they clearly are not.

If the likely scenario at this point is that LAFC have offered Vela a contract and he’s waiting for a better option, that is possibly a very tough spot for the club. He’s no longer the best paid player in the league but still near the top, and LAFC likely want to bring his salary down somewhat. Maybe he’s not happy about that, or the amount, or maybe the parties are at an impasse over contract length. I’m not saying that LAFC should pay him $10 million per year for seven years on this next deal, there is an ultimate line. But given how well LAFC have started the season and the key role Vela has played in that, letting him walk in LAFC’s best chance to win titles since 2019 is a risk that could be a “sliding doors” moment in the club’s history. That’s an enormous risk for a contender, in other words.

Or maybe Vela just wants everyone to squirm and he’ll sign a new deal on June 29. We’ll see.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.