LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although Carlos Vela expects Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini to make a good team even better when they join him at Los Angeles FC, he also wants the European superstars to know they've still got plenty of work to do.
Vela issued greetings and advice to his new teammates after he re-signed with Los Angeles FC on Tuesday, extending his tenure with the Major League Soccer leaders through the 2023 season.
The Mexican striker became the first player in LAFC's history in August 2017 when the expansion club signed him away from La Liga’s Real Sociedad nearly seven months before its first match. Vela made the transition from Europe to MLS superbly by scoring 73 goals in 118 total appearances for the franchise, including a league-record 34 goals in 31 games while earning the league MVP award in 2019.
“When I joined this club from the first day, my first goal was the most important — to win trophies for this club,” Vela said. “I want to keep going and show everybody how good we are.”
LAFC already sits atop the overall league standings at 10-3-3, and the club is about to get major reinforcements with the imminent arrivals of Welsh forward Bale and Italian defender Chiellini, who should both be eligible to play next week.
Vela is eager to welcome Bale to MLS after nine seasons spent mostly at Real Madrid — but he also expects hard work out of Bale, whose injury setbacks and overall commitment to Madrid were widely questioned in the Spanish media in recent years.
“As you know, this league is really physical," Vela said. “If he’s in good shape and he comes in with a good mentality, a good attitude, he will be great. He’s an important player. He will have to come to work, because it’s not that easy like people think. If he comes in good shape with a good attitude, a good mentality, he will be so important for us. He will help us to win trophies.”
The 33-year-old Vela was limited by significant injuries in both 2020 and 2021, but he has returned as LAFC’s leading scorer this season with six goals and three assists. His contract was set to expire at the end of June, but Vela and LAFC completed most of the key negotiations on this new deal two months ago, general manager John Thorrington acknowledged.
“For me, Carlos has been the best player in this league for a good part of his time here, and we are eager to see what else he brings to this team and the city,” Thorrington said. “We believe Carlos will help us deliver on our ambition to win championships here in LA.”
Vela is one of LAFC's two designated players, who are allowed to be paid above the MLS salary cap. LAFC still has a third designated player slot open to make another addition alongside Bale and Chiellini, who were signed without using a designated player slot.
“It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve played in some place,” Vela said. “You have to put in the effort, and you have to do what is best for the team. Now we have a lot of talent coming in, so we just have to figure out what’s best for the team, put it in and go for it. It’s the only way we’re going to win a trophy.”
Vela spent seven seasons at Real Sociedad before moving back to North America. He began his European career by signing with Arsenal as a teenager in 2005.
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