One of the enduring questions surrounding the signing of Gareth Bale by LAFC, in a shock move this summer, is just how long the attacker plans to stay in MLS.
With Wales headed to the World Cup in November, Bale needed to find a club to get playing time, but as a little-used player by Real Madrid his final couple seasons there, plenty of ink — real and virtual — has been spilled in Spain maligning Bale’s perceived lack of interest in playing football any longer.
There’s an obvious parallel to draw to that treatment of Bale in Spain and of Carlos Vela for much of his time in Spain, too. While Vela was not nearly as big of a star in Spain and did not play for one of the grandes, he too was maligned in the Spanish press for lack of interest. Meanwhile, in MLS he’s pretty well put the stereotypes he’s lazy and uninterested to bed.
Hopefully the same is true for Bale, but as he’s signed to a 12-month TAM contract with an option for an additional 18 months, reportedly the option with a Designated Player kick-in, there is some flexibility regarding the future for the player.
But during his introductory press conference on Monday, Bale insisted he’s not planning to make this a short run with LAFC.
“I’m still 32, 33 at the end of the week,” Bale told reporters. “I still have many years to come. I haven’t come here just to be six months, or 12 months. I’ve come to try to be here as long as possible. I want to do as well as I can and make my mark on this league, on this team.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to the future. It’s not just a short thing, as I said. Also gives me the best opportunity to keep going to the next Euros, maybe further, so my plan is to really work hard,” he added.
And yet, Bale’s signing, along with that of defender Giorgio Chiellini, both on TAM deals, has sparked the ire of the rest of MLS, with some fans accusing LAFC of blatantly breaking the rules. Presumably, MLS cleared the signings, so it’s probably no use to worry about cheating here, but it is certainly true that LAFC were incredibly fortunate to have two global names in recent weeks essentially fall into their laps.
Still, it’s not surprising why LAFC were interested in adding Bale, even if that didn’t initially seem feasible.
“When it comes to Gareth I do not need to speak of his resumé, so I will leave that portion of it,” said co-president and GM John Thorrington at Bale’s press conference. “What I will tell you is that in conversation, it became very clear, abundantly clear, that Gareth shared LAFC’s ambition to win trophies. For us as a club, when the opportunity came, what better way for us to win trophies than welcome a player who has won 19 trophies at his previous club, Real Madrid. So in short we saw this as a special opportunity to welcome a special player to a special club.”
With the team changing coaches in the offseason, retooling the roster in the winter to bring in much more MLS experience, before re-signing Vela and adding Chiellini and Bale in the summer, LAFC sit atop the standings and it’s obvious their objective is to win now.
And Bale is saying all the right things as he gears up for his LAFC debut, which could come as soon as Sunday at Nashville SC.
“[It’s] just an exciting time to be in the MLS. As I said, this club is really on the rise. It’s amazing to be here and witness what the club is all about, and like I said, I keep reiterating it but I’m just exciting to get started and to try and help this club,” he said.
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