But the Mexican star, now age 34, knows he’s not immortal and retirement lingers in the background. That inevitably comes for all athletes, even the best ones.
These topics certainly appear on Vela’s mind, based on recent comments to The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas.
"I want to end [my career] well. I don’t want to be let go because I can’t play anymore." Vela said. "If my mind and body aren’t at 100 percent, I’ll step aside and let others step in. I’ve always been clear about that. I know it’s coming soon."
Vela is the author of, statistically speaking, the greatest-ever MLS season. He recorded 34 goals and 15 assists during the 2019 season, capturing Landon Donovan MLS MVP and Golden Boot presented by Audi honors. He's also helped bring two Supporters’ Shields (2019, ‘22) and an MLS Cup (2022) to the Black & Gold, as well as two Concacaf Champions Cup runner-up finishes (2020, ‘23).
As Vela’s role has shifted and his productivity ebbs and flows, he is realistic about what the future has in store – saying he's in the "home stretch."
"You get to an age when you can’t fool yourself anymore into thinking that you’re going to play five to 10 more years," said Vela, who last played for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup. "Now, each year I have to take stock of my body, my mind in order to keep playing."
In June 2022, LAFC announced they re-signed Vela as a Designated Player through the 2023 season. That timeline creates a decision for LAFC’s front office and Vela, be it a contract renewal or a parting of ways.
Whether it’s from LAFC or elsewhere, Vela said there aren’t any other contract offers as he weighs his future.
"When the time comes, I’ll make those decisions about what’s best for my family and for myself and where I want to end my career," Vela said. "Right now I can’t tell you where I’m leaning. We’re in Los Angeles. We’ll see where we go from here."
For more from Vela, a Chivas youth product who rose to stardom in Europe at Arsenal and Real Sociedad, check out The Athletic’s full interview.