The secrets behind Gareth Bale’s move to MLS side LAFC
‘The Athletic’ explains the ins and outs of Bale’s signing for LAFC with the process all starting with a message after the Wales-Ukraine WC play-off match.
Gareth Bale’s goal towards the end of the 2021-22 season was clear, secure qualification to the 2022 World Cup with the Welsh national side. He made his intentions clear back in March, before facing Austria in a game that he was instrumental in by bagging a brace: “I’m focused solely on this game, on this qualifying process. The stakes are high and I’m not thinking about anything else right now.” The last obstacle between Bale and the World Cup was a play-off final against Ukraine and a solitary goal from Yarmolenko who deflected a Bale free kick into his own net was enough for Wales to secure 1-0 win and seal a place in Qatar.
One of the spectators at the match in Cardiff was John Torrington, GM of Los Angeles FC, as Paul Tenorio and Matt Slater explain in The Athletic, in an article that breaks down the ins and outs of Bale ending up at the MLS. The president and general manager of the Los Angeles team didn’t contemplate the possibility of signing the ex-Madrid player at that time, but he still decided to sit down and ‘scout’. At the end of the match, as all of Wales celebrated, Torrington received a message: “Can we talk about Gareth Bale?”. The issuer, the aforementioned journalists explain, was Patrick McCabe, head of Stellar Group in the United States.
Los Angeles FC was, and is, an ambitious project. Despite leading their conference (West) and being the strongest current side in MLS (33 points, ahead of Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference and ahead of Philadelphia and New York City, in the overall standings), there was uncertainty about the proposition. Chiellini had been announced as a new LAFC player just days previously, in a team where former Arsenal and Real Sociedad striker Carlos Vela is the star player but that message from McCabe started to get the ball rolling.
“At the beginning of the season it was not part of our thinking to sign Gareth Bale” confessed the president of the ‘Black & Gold’ to The Athletic. And he added: “But I did tell our ownership there will be these moments for opportunism and that we need to be in a position to strike”. Twenty days later, on June 25, Bale appeared on his Twitter account wearing the black LAFC shirt and cap confirming his move to Los Angeles.
The deal was a good one for LAFC, they had to make a payment of 70,840 euros to Beckham’s Inter Miami, who had a preferential option on the 32-year-old footballer, and have offered the striker a salary of 1.5 million euros until next summer. Bale will not occupy a designated player (DP) position (MLS clubs have the right to have three ‘franchise players’ on their roster whose salary is excluded from the typical salary cap in North American sport). If he decides to stay for more than 18 months, an option appears in his contract that would trigger a salary increase until he occupies one of those three places, according to various sources. This leaves room for another star signing during the summer.
Several cards on the table
Did the Welshman have more options on the table? Yes. “Gareth is leaving Real Madrid, but as for his future... it will depend on what Wales does. If he qualifies for the World Cup, we will make a decision”, stated his agent, Jonathan Barnett, some time ago in Record. Once the objective was achieved, the mission was to find a place where they could prepare for the event and keep Bale in shape for the event in Qatar, which starts on 21 November. “Four or five offers serious offers”, Barnett confessed to The Athletic were made for the striker adding ”we narrowed the field for him: he was not going to go to Italy or Spain, for example”.
Cardiff City, was a possibility as was DC United but at LAFC, Torrington recognised that the franchise “could offer a player like him the opportunity to come and do something unique,” says Torrington. “He saw a chance to make a difference,” he adds. In addition, the sporting side of the situation also carried weight as LAFC are one of the favorites to lift the MLS Cup this season.
What’s more, Jonathan Barnett is not closing the door to a long-term relationship and not just a timely courtship. “He doesn’t need to play football — he’s one of the best-paid footballers of all time — but if all goes well, of course he could stay there for a while. Why not? He’ll have a great life there and he still enjoys playing,” Barnett said. “Let’s just see how it goes and it will be a two-way decision, too.”
‘Black and Gold’ fans are now looking at their MLS schedule as to when Gareth Bale could pull on the black shirt for the first time with a possibility being the Banc of California Stadium derby against against city rivals Los Angeles Galaxy on 8/9 July.