Bale will join Los Angeles Football Club in Major League Soccer
By Andrew Das
Ever since Gareth Bale helped ensure that Wales would play in the World Cup for the first time since 1958, there has been only one question on the minds of his countrymen: For which club would he sign, and play, to prepare for the tournament?
The answer arrived over the weekend: After running out his contract with Real Madrid and flirting with a return to his hometown, Bale, 32, has agreed to join Los Angeles Football Club in MLS. The move will offer him regular playing time, plenty of sunshine and as many as five consecutive months of matches to sharpen his form before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar in late November.
LAFC teased an international signing on its social media accounts Saturday, and an MLS official familiar with Bale’s decision to join the league confirmed that an official announcement of his signing was imminent, perhaps as soon as Sunday.
Hours later, Bale broke the news in his own post on Twitter: “See you soon, Los Angeles,” he wrote above a short video in which he was wearing his new LAFC jersey.
With his Real Madrid contract expiring this summer, Bale announced his intent to leave Spain and has been available to any team as a free transfer. A five-time Champions League winner with Madrid, which had acquired him in 2013 for what was then a world-record fee of 100 million euros (just more than $105 million), he had become an afterthought at the club in recent years, playing rarely and feuding openly with the team and its fans all while rejecting any effort to move on.
Bale had flirted with a move to Cardiff City in his hometown in recent weeks before choosing MLS, and Los Angeles, when it came time to put pen to paper.
While a return to Wales would have been popular and symbolic — Bale was born in Cardiff — his choice of Los Angeles may better suit his World Cup preparations. MLS has moved its schedule forward this season to accommodate the World Cup, ensuring Bale a steady diet of games from July through October, and then either a playoff push or a brief break before the World Cup.
LAFC currently leads the Western Conference standings, and it entered Saturday with the league’s best record. Adding Bale and veteran Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini — whose introduction is set for next week — over the next month to a team that already features Mexican star Carlos Vela could make LAFC an MLS Cup favorite this fall.
Bale’s main focus, though, will be the World Cup. Wales opens the tournament on its first day, Nov. 21. Its opponent that day? The United States.