Home is where the heart is and Gareth Bale's heart has certainly found a home with his new side LAFC.
Early in his MLS tenure, Bale is regaining the joy for the sport that began to fade towards the end of his previous stint with Real Madrid. It's a happiness he believes will bring him back to top form, Bale told FOX Sports' Rob Stone and Alexi Lalas following LAFC's 2-1 Friday night victory over Seattle Sounders FC.
"I think any player will tell you if they have a smile on their face, they enjoy football more, you play better, a bit more enthusiastically, and life seems a little bit better," Bale said. "I want to get back to enjoy my football, and I feel like I am on the road to do that and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead."
Bale struggled to find the words to describe why he has found instant satisfaction with his new club, but gave credit to the amazing atmosphere LAFC have captured at Banc of California Stadium in their five seasons since joining the league in 2018.
"It's hard to pinpoint but a happy environment, the fans are so welcoming. Even in the away stadiums, they are not so bad, I guess," Bale said with a smile. "It's just a family, friendly environment and it's what football should be, the place where you bring your kids. It's not hostile, and it just seems like a great environment in the MLS."
More minutes soon?
It has been just over a month since the Welsh international signed for the newer Los Angeles club, making three appearances (all off the bench) and scoring his first MLS goal last weekend at Sporting Kansas City. The 33-year-old completed another milestone Saturday night, making his home debut at Banc of California Stadium for the Black & Gold.
It could still be some time until we see Bale getting 90-minute runs with LAFC, as head coach Steve Cherundolo said "he's in week three of preseason" after joining from Real Madrid during LaLiga's offseason.
"He's probably around a 45-minute range," Cherundolo said. "Yeah, you can fast track it or you can be careful about it and, you know looking back over the past couple years I think we're better off being sure what we're doing and we're communicating every day and making sure that he feels good. And now we're adding to what he already has, and so I think it's a healthy progression."
Taking things slowly with a five-time UEFA Champions League winner is not a luxury afforded to many clubs, but LAFC currently lead the Supporters' Shield race by averaging 2.18 points per game through Week 23 (15W-4L-3D, 48 points).
Bale will have another chance to build up his match fitness and further his integration into the club Wednesday when LAFC face Liga MX's Club America in the Leagues Cup Showcase at SoFi Stadium (11:15 pm ET | ESPN, TUDN).