"We’re not done": Cyle Larin finds LaLiga spark before Canada's busy summer


Cyle Larin isn’t entirely sure how to explain it.

The Canada men’s national team forward arrived in Spain this winter on loan to Real Valladolid from Belgium's Club Brugge. His last goal in club play was in September, his last internationally in a friendly during the final window before the World Cup. He wasn’t finding the back of the net, wasn’t celebrating goals with the frequency he had been before. Then he got to LaLiga, one of the world’s top leagues, and…

It just…worked.

“The style of play in LaLiga is enjoyable, it’s fun. I really connect with the guys well. I don’t know, the colors are purple and I scored a lot of goals in purple,” he told with a laugh.

Perhaps that had been the key all along.

After all, he had 17 goals in his rookie season with Orlando City SC, noted wearers of purple. He added 14 with three assists the next season and a dozen goals in 2017 before making the jump to Turkish Süper Lig power Beşiktaş following an offseason transfer saga. Then again, he scored there too wearing black and white. And he scored in red, too, notching 13 goals for Canada during World Cup qualification as he helped the men’s national team to their first World Cup berth since the 1980s.

A warm Valladolid welcome

Larin just scores, and he’s doing it again with Valladolid, lifting the team in their fight against relegation with seven goals in just more than 1,100 LaLiga minutes. That pace made him one of the top scorers not just in LaLiga but in Europe since the start of 2023, with some members of the press wondering if Larin is one of the best winter signings in the Spanish first division’s history. He’s taking the attention in stride, saying his teammates helped him adapt to his new home quickly.

“Since I got to Valladolid, everyone’s been welcoming, and I settled in nicely. I knew if I could get minutes and play, I would score goals,” Larin, 28, said. “They know where I want the ball and how I want the ball.

“I’ve always said as long as you can get me the ball, I will score. That’s happened.”

That confidence, backed up by the performances on the field, have made Larin a fast favorite in Valladolid. But it’s not just the locals hoping to stay in the first division whose eye Larin is catching. The team is owned by Brazilian legend Ronaldo.

Orlando start

Larin said he’ll see the owner around, especially in the dressing room after victories, and while he hasn’t had in-depth conversations about goalscoring, it’s been a cherry on top of his Spain experience to work with the Brazilian great.

“It’s nice to see a guy who has played at the top level and won the World Cup, one of the best strikers to ever play the game,” he said. “To play under him is exciting. I just have to keep scoring goals, and he’ll be happy.”

It’s not the first time he’s rubbed shoulders with a Brazilian legend. Seven of Larin’s goals in Orlando came thanks to an assist from Kaka, who captained the Lions during Larin’s time with the team.

Between the former Ballon d’Or winner and other veterans like Antonio Nocerino, Jonathan Spector and Yoshi Yutún, who all joined Orlando from European clubs, Larin was able to soak up advice and prepare for an eventual hop across the Atlantic Ocean.

“It was a stepping stone, coming from college and playing at a higher level. The three years I played there, I played with some great players, some that were at the European level before,” Larin, the 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year, said of his time in MLS. “It taught me to be professional and do the right things.”

Relegation battles & trophy hunts ahead

While his future will keep him in Europe, it’s not now clear whether that’ll be in Spain, where he’s on loan with Valladolid, or back with Club Brugge.

Some of it depends on whether or not the Pucela are able to avoid the drop. Valladolid sits a point above the drop zone but is on a four-match losing skid heading into Friday’s contest with Cádiz. They then host Barcelona before closing the season out against two fellow relegation fighters, Almería and Getafe.

“It’s different. I’ve fought for championships before, now I’m fighting to stay out of relegation and help the team stay up,” Larin, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, said. “The fans and the atmosphere is nice and wonderful. They push us every game, and the next few games are very important for us to stay up.”

He also hopes to keep scoring this summer alongside stars like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David. Canada are building off the appearance in Qatar but are still in a two-decade-long trophy drought, not having lifted any silverware since the 2000 Concacaf Gold Cup. They’ll have a pair of chances to change that, with John Herdman’s squad focused on the Concacaf Nations League semifinals before turning attention to the Gold Cup.

“Going to the World Cup was a great experience, and everyone learned from it,” Larin said. “We’re not done yet.

“We have to show who we are, the great, talented players we have. Everyone wants to win something, to go into these Nations League games and win a trophy and go into the Gold Cup and win a trophy. It’s important for everybody, and everybody will be ready to do that.”

Larin definitely seems ready. If he has his way, he’ll keep getting the ball and he’ll keep scoring goals, no matter the color of his shirt.