Rivalry Week

Why LAFC? Gareth Bale explains step after leaving Real Madrid

Gareth Bale, as a nine-year chapter at Real Madrid concluded in early June, started weighing options for where he’d play next.

As you probably know by now, the superstar forward chose LAFC a short two weeks ago, rejecting a stay in Europe amid heavy interest from Cardiff City in his native Wales. There was no shortage of additional suitors, too.

But why pick the MLS club? Bale, soon 33, answered that question himself Friday night at Banc of California Stadium, speaking at halftime of LAFC’s eventual 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy in El Trafico as part of Heineken Rivalry Week.

“The club’s really on the rise,” he told ESPN’s Taylor Twellman and Jon Champion shortly after arriving stateside. “It’s very new, but it’s something that’s really glamorous and it’s a very attractive club. Just speaking with them, it felt really like the right thing to do. It felt like home straight away.”

LAFC, only in their fifth year after starting MLS play in 2018, already have a Supporters’ Shield (2019) in their trophy cabinet. And they’re the current frontrunners to earn that honor again in 2022, before Bale, the one-time most expensive transfer worldwide upon leaving Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013, makes his debut in Black & Gold.

The five-time UEFA Champions League winner hopes to leave his mark in multiple ways, similar to what legendary Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini has spoken of upon arriving from Juventus. Remarkably, they’re both joining on Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) deals; Bale’s on a 12-month contract with options through 2024.

“I can come in and offer obviously what I can do in football, but I can help with the youngsters,” Bale said. “Because obviously it’s a very young team here, giving them advice, seeing what I do in terms of professional standard and trying to help them.

“I think the league is a growing league and it was an exciting opportunity that I felt was right for me and my family.”

There’s also the small matter of Bale being under five months out from helping lead Wales to their first World Cup in 64 years (last qualified for Sweden 1958 before Qatar 2022). The Dragons are drawn into Group B alongside the US men’s national team, and he’s craving consistent playing time after injuries and coach decisions limited him to 290 minutes for Real Madrid during the 2021-22 campaign.

“The best prep is to play games,” Bale said. “I want to come here, I want to play games, I want to make my stamp and I want to do as best as I can to help LAFC try to win a trophy.”

Now, all that’s next is Bale making his LAFC debut. He became eligible on Thursday when the Secondary Transfer Window opened, though wasn’t in the matchday squad against LA.

Should all go to plan in training, head coach Steve Cherundolo could hand Bale his first look next Saturday when visiting Nashville SC (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). A first home appearance is especially coveted, though.

“Just excited to get started and play in front of these incredible fans,” Bale said.