After about six months of wondering if Carlos Vela may exit LAFC in the middle of a season while they were leading the Supporters’ Shield race, the player put pen to paper on a new 18-month deal this week to continue his run as the centerpiece of the black-and-gold first team.
Was the timing misleading? Perhaps yes and no at the same time. Vela insisted several times to the press that he wanted to stay with LAFC, and sources told well-placed reporters several times that a deal was entirely done. But we waited, and waited for a formal announcement that finally came Tuesday.
Vela revealed in talking to reporters on Tuesday after the club confirmed the news that he had been approached by several Liga MX sides and that if he hadn’t figured out a deal with LAFC, his next choice would have been to return to Europe, but ultimately he was happy to have re-signed as that was his first choice all along.
“I’m really, really happy to be still here, to be part of this because when I joined this club from the first day, one of the main goals was come to LA, enjoy LA, make LA enjoy my football, and the most important, win trophies for this club,” Vela said in English. “So, in that fire I’m still thinking, we can do better. We are in a good way but we never end that job. So like I said to this guy, I want to still [be] here and I want to win with you. So I think it’s one of the main reasons why I want to still go to this club and I want to work really hard to bring trophies to this club and enjoy — I hope until the end of my career — here.”
LAFC GM John Thorrington revealed the news of Vela’s re-signing was popular in the locker room.
“I‘ll just give a quick anecdote which I don’t like to share too much of what happens backstage because it’s it’s the players’ information, but I trust they won’t mind me sharing,” Thorrington began. “When I announced to the group that Carlos had extended, it was like a standing ovation. So I think that says a lot about who Carlos is as a player and also as a person. I do not want to characterize him as a General, militant-type leader, but he leads by example. And he leads by the fact that he’s been the best player that we’ve had in our history. And I hope that the young guys and other guys see that example and they seek to unseat him from that title, at some point.
“But Carlos, I think is often misunderstood as either a difficult guy to deal with and I find that having dealt with him on a daily basis for now four-plus years that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and he’s a really likable guy. He never asked for special treatment. He wants to be one of the guys, he is one of the guys. And for that I believe the guys were incredibly excited when we shared the news,” Thorrington continued.
Vela showed a flicker of emotion when asked about the ovation from his teammates, and insisted he felt proud to get that reception.
“It’s one of the main reasons I like to play football because in the end it’s a job, you will end your career and [there] will come another young guy and the people will forget about the player [from the past] but for me, the important part is like making [bonds with] your teammates because in the end they’re like the person I have relationships with every single day,” Vela said.
“So when you see the teammates reacting well, it’s something that made me proud because the thing is, I’m doing well on my stuff outside of the field. Inside we can talk about that, some days better than others but when outside [the field] you are good, you’re a good leader, you are a good teammate. It made me proud about how I am as a person so in that part I’m really proud in what is Carlos and inside I still have a lot to bring to my team, to my teammates, to this club. So I’m in a really good time in my career, in my life. So I just want to show that to everybody in this club. And like I say, in the end, the most important [thing] is win trophies with this club and I hope we’re can start with this season.”
In a city that is so connected to Mexico and the Mexican people, Vela said he is inspired to be an exemplar for his people.
“Well, I think Latinos are really important in this city, this country also. But you know, when you’re in a football field, like the Mexicans or the Latinos are really, really excited. They love that. So when I can be part of that I can be the person they follow or you know, when you have something like I’m the same [as] them, like Latino, showing, doing well, making [other Latinos] proud I think it’s something so important for me. So I want to keep going I want to keep showing how good we are. And like I say every time I go to The Banc is like I notice many Latinos waiting for me to do something so I get that pressure in a good way. And I really enjoy [playing for] our fans,” he said.
And as for the timing of the deal that will keep him with LAFC, while Vela may have checked out some of his options with his first contract expiring, Thorrington did not appear concerned that the former MLS MVP was in real danger of walking away midseason.
“I would say the heavy lifting of the negotiations was done probably two months ago and the rest of the time has been done ironing out minor details which I never thought would get in the way of the deal,” Thorrington said. “So for me, for Steve [Cherundolo] for his planning purposes, this deal was as good as done a few months ago. Obviously any negotiation that you go through, there are typically a lot of ups and downs and it’s a nonlinear process. But that wasn’t the case here as soon as we knew he wanted to stay. We wanted him to stay, then it just took a bit of time to iron out the details. In full transparency, the contract was only signed basically the day before we announced it, but for all intents and purposes it was done.”
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