LAFC has agreed to terms to sign Welsh winger Gareth Bale to a one-year deal that will begin when his contract with Real Madrid expires at the end of the month, an MLS source confirmed to The Times on Saturday.
The signing is one of the most significant in LAFC’s short history and it comes with the team nearing agreement on a contract extension with captain and former league MVP Carlos Vela. His deal is expected to be announced “within a few days,” according to a person with knowledge of the talks who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
LAFC (9-3-3) entered the weekend leading the MLS standings in points and goals.
Bale, who will turn 33 next month, spent the last eight seasons with Spanish giant Real Madrid, winning three La Liga championships and five Champions League titles. He scored 106 goals in 258 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid.
He will be eligible to play in MLS on July 1, although it’s unlikely he will be in the country and have all his necessary paperwork completed by then.
The most expensive transfer in soccer history when he joined Real Madrid for $106.5 million in 2013, Bale will be joining LAFC as a free agent and will not occupy a designated player spot, meaning his salary will be less than $1.612 million.
He is the second veteran European player to join LAFC on a free transfer this summer, following legendary Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. That marks a change in philosophy for LAFC general manager John Thorrington, whose focus in building the club had been primarily on young, talented South Americans such as Uruguayan Diego Rossi, Colombian Eduard Atuesta and Ecuadoran José Cifuentes. Bale, when he plays, will become just the eighth player in five seasons to join LAFC off a European roster.
Vela, the most expensive player in MLS last season with a salary of $6.5 million, took a pay cut to sign a six-month extension, which expires Thursday. He is expected to sign another extension this week.
For Bale, the move to LAFC was tied to Wales’ qualification for this fall’s World Cup in Qatar, just the second World Cup qualification in the nation’s history. The Welsh captain played a career-low seven games in all competition for Real Madrid last season. A repeat of that would have left him unfit for the World Cup. The move to MLS, conversely, will allow him to play every week in the run-up to the tournament, which kicks off in November, a couple of weeks after the MLS Cup. Wales will meet the U.S. in its group-play opener.
Bale’s LAFC deal reportedly includes an 18-month option that, if exercised, would keep him in MLS through the 2024 season.