Monday afternoon, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) unveiled their newest signing in Welsh international and former Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale.
Over 100 media members were in attendance for Bale’s introductory press conference at Banc of California Stadium where coach Steve Cherundolo was also in attendance. Earlier in the day, Bale had participated in his first training session with the team.
However, the Welshman’s first glimpse into the league and his new home came on Friday night as he witnessed LAFC’s 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy, and was formally introduced to the 3252 supporters group.
Along with Cherundolo, Managing Owner Larry Berg and Co-President and General Manager John Thorington were also present.
“Being able to bring a player, and more importantly a person of Gareth’s caliber to LAFC is not only a historic moment for Los Angeles and MLS, but for the sport in the United States,” said Berg.
Thorington followed, “For us as a club when the opportunity comes, what better way for us to win trophies than welcome a player who won 19 trophies at his previous club, Real Madrid. So in short we saw this as a special opportunity to welcome a special player to a special club.”
Bale then took the stage and answered questions from the media, addressing the so called “retirement league” reputation that the league continuously tries to defend itself from.
“The standard here is really increasing. I think it’s a lot better than people in Europe really think. The quality is improving. The league is improving. The stadiums are improving. The teams are improving.”
Bale also expressed gratitude and the emotion that followed Friday nights match.
“It’s an amazing honor to be here … to watch the 3252 chant the whole game the other day (Friday) it was pretty special.
This club is an amazing project, after speaking with John and Larry, it became very clear that this was the place where I wanted to be.”
In terms of Bale’s future, don’t question his intent. When asked about his long-term commitment to the club, he quickly refuted his signing as a pass over to greener pastures.
“I still have many years to come. I haven’t come here just to be six months or 12 months. I’ve come to try to be here as long as possible. I want to do as well as I can and make my mark on this league, on this team,” said Bale.
Signing with the Black and Gold also means reuniting with some familiar faces. One in particular, captain and face of the franchise, Carlos Vela.
“He’s been a big player for this club and just training with him this morning and chatting with him this morning … I’ve known him and played against him in the past.
We get on very well and looking forward to light up a partnership with him and hopefully like I said, win some games and win some trophies.”
Bale’s transition into the league was also a point of emphasis as his season in Europe had come to a close and is joining MLS mid-season, arguably the most crucial part of the year.
“Yeah, the transition is not, I guess, an easy one but one I’m looking forward to the challenge. Obviously being in the middle of a season is a bit different but I feel like I’ve been keeping myself fit in Europe’s off-season and hopefully I can hit the ground running.”
Bale is expected to make his debut in Nashville over the weekend and will wear the No. 11 jersey, after teammate Jose Cifuentes decided to relinquish his number to him.