Gareth Bale agrees one-year contract with LAFC | Professional soccer
LOS ANGELES — The best team in MLS is about to get better.
LAFC, who entered the weekend at the top of the Supporters’ Shield rankings while leading the league in points and goals, have reached an agreement on a one-year deal that will bring Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale to the team, according to a person familiar with the talks who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. It comes just days before the team is expected to announce a contract extension for former league MVP captain Carlos Vela.
Bale’s signing is one of the biggest in LAFC’s short history. The Welsh national team captain, who turns 33 next month, has spent the past eight seasons with Spanish giants Real Madrid, winning three La Liga championships and five Champions League titles. He scored 106 goals in 258 appearances for Real Madrid.
The most expensive transfer in football history when he joined Real Madrid for $106.5 million in 2013, Bale will join LAFC as a free agent and will not hold a designated player spot, meaning his salary, paid with stipend money, will be less than $1.612 million.
He is the second veteran European player to join LAFC (9-3-3) on a free transfer this summer, after legendary Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. This marks a change in philosophy for general manager John Thorrington, who in building the club had mainly focused on talented young South Americans such as Uruguayan Diego Rossi, Colombian Eduard Atuesta and Ecuadorian José Cifuentes.
Bale is only the eighth player in five seasons to join LAFC on a European roster, and the acquisition continues what has been a banner year for Thorrington. Over the winter, he signed midfielder Ilie Sánchez as a free agent and traded for midfielder Kellyn Acosta, goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and defender Ryan Hollingshead.
And LAFC still has a designated player spot available.
LAFC hosts the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at Banc of California Stadium. Bale won’t be eligible to join the team until Friday, although he’s unlikely to be in the country and have completed all his necessary paperwork by then. A more likely target for his debut would be July 8, when LAFC hosts the Galaxy.
Spanish sports daily Marca reported that Bale was the third highest paid player in Europe last season, earning $35.3m. He had considered a return to England with second-tier Championship League side Cardiff City, meeting manager Steve Morison on Wednesday.
At the time, his agent, Jonathan Barnett, told reporters that “what Gareth does next is not about the money”. But this is the World Cup, which Wales qualified for at the start of the month for only the second time in their history.
The Welsh captain played a career-low seven games for Real Madrid last season and a repeat of that would have left him unfit. The switch to MLS, on the other hand, will allow him to play every week to prepare for the tournament, which will begin in November, a few weeks after the MLS Cup.
“Any player will tell you, as you play week by week your body gets more robust, you get used to it and you get fitter doing it,” Bale said earlier this month ahead of a match in the League of Nations against Belgium. “I just need to play some games and I’ll be good to go.”
Wales will meet USA in their first group game.
Bale’s LAFC deal reportedly includes an 18-month option which, if exercised, would keep him in MLS until the 2024 season.
Meanwhile, the soap opera that has surrounded Vela’s status is set to end this week, keeping the league’s all-time leading scorer with LAFC at least until the end of this season.
Vela, who scored 34 times as he led LAFC to a Fan Shield in 2019, was MLS’ most expensive player last season with a salary of $6.5 million. In January, he took a pay cut to sign a six-month extension, which expires on Thursday, and Vela has been reluctant to sign a further extension.
“At the moment, nothing has been signed,” Vela said after LAFC’s 1-1 draw in Seattle last weekend, a game that marked his 100th MLS appearance. “We are still in the same situation.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business. I’m open to being here, but if it doesn’t work out and this thing doesn’t happen, I’m also open to being somewhere else.”
Vela leads the team with six goals but has started just 31 of 71 games over the past three seasons, scoring just 16 times combined.
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