Earlier this week, Los Angeles FC announced the acquisition of Gareth Bale. The announced contract is 12 months and can be extended into 2024.
Bale transfers from Real Madrid, where he finished out a six-year contract and a nine-year stay with the most valuable football team in the world. He helped the club win several titles, including four FIFA Club World Cups, in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018. He’s also been part of five Champions League champions.
Since the 2019 season, his impact has lessened in league and international play.
Bale Contract Details
LAFC, which has the best record in the Major League Soccer’s Western Conference (10-3-3), used Targeted Allocation Money to purchase Bale.
TAM allows teams to use money to add players to its roster with little impact on the salary cap. It’s frequently used to entice international football players to the United States. LAFC also has an open Designated Player roster spot, which is a rule that lets teams sign up to three players who do not count toward the salary cap. The league imposes a $4.9 million salary cap.
Not having to use a DP spot on Bale was surprising, especially considering the contracts he has had in Europe. The LAFC contract will allow the club to make another big-name move this summer if it wants.
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MLS Growing in Popularity
The MLS has 28 teams, 25 in the U.S. and three representing Canada. According to attendance totals, MLS has the third highest per game average attendance for a professional sports league in the U.S. and Canada. The schedule runs from February through October, with a champion crowned after postseason play culminates in the MLS Cup.
LAFC, in its fifth year in the league, has never won the MLS Cup.
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How Will Bale be Used by LAFC?
Bale will turn 33 in mid-July. He was born in Cardiff, Wales, and has appeared for the Welsh national team in numerous tournaments. At this point in his career, the winger is not the scoring threat he once was, but he still brings European football skills to the American west coast to wear the colors of LAFC.
Second-year coach Steve Cherundolo will have the luxury of tossing Bale into his rotation as a winger to add experienced passing and scoring to the LAFC attack. However, Bale played very little for Real Madrid in 2021-22, and just how effective he can be is open to debate.
A Team-First Player?
Will Bale make his new team a priority? In the past, the Welshman has come under fire for seemingly selfish decisions.
In previous years, Bale came under criticism for playing for his countrymen and helping the Welsh team qualify for the European Cup, while having opted out of matches for Real Madrid, who were paying the bulk of his big salary. He also once waved a flag that said “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.”
Yet his new team is aware of his history, and they still want the veteran on their roster.
LAFC general manager John Thorrington says the team is committed to place Bale “in a position to succeed.”
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Bale Debut Coming Soon
Bale could be on the pitch for LAFC’s rivalry match against the Los Angeles Galaxy scheduled for July 8.
The move is also seen as a motivator for Bale, who is preparing for the 2022 World Cup, which will be contested in Qatar in November. The contract with LAFC may spur Bale to put in the required work on his game to be ready for the World Cup, where he’ll represent Wales.
For months, since early 2022, Bale has apparently been dealing with back pain that has left him unavailable for some matches with Real Madrid.
If Bale is healthy and focused, he and his 39-goal pedigree can help LAFC win its first MLS Cup.
AP Photo/Matt Dunham