As Los Angeles Football Club's Lead Managing Owner Larry Berg and Co-President & General Manager John Thorrington made their opening remarks, Gareth Bale's eyes scanned the audience at his introductory press conference on Monday, July 11 at Banc of California Stadium while he waited to speak and answer questions. Several smiles flashed across the Welsh striker's face as both men spoke of the importance of Bale's acquisition for the Club and the league, particularly so when it came to the presence of his family. When it was Bale's time to speak, the first question posed to him asked his first impressions of the Club and how they compared to his expectations before his arrival; from the moment he began to speak, his excitement for this Black & Gold chapter of his career was clear.
"I knew about the move awhile before I got here, we were just waiting on visas, so I was just excited to get out here, to get to the stadium and watch the fans. Obviously, I’ve seen it on TV and in videos how incredible they are, and it doesn't do it justice compared to actually being in the stadium," Bale said in his first words to the L.A. media. "I've had a great welcome from everybody at the club, from John [Thorrington] and Larry [Berg]; the fan reception I got before the game, words can't describe. I'm looking forward to getting properly started."
Bale participated in his first training session hours before his introductory press conference, and the images of him together with Carlos Vela should strike fear into the hearts of defensemen across the league. When asked about his budding relationship with LAFC's #10, Bale called back to their interactions in the English Premier League, when Vela played for Arsenal and Bale for Tottenham, expressing great respect for LAFC's captain and an excitement to build a connection between them.
"What he's done for this Club since he's been here is amazing, he is obviously a big player for this Club. Just training with him this morning [was great]," Bale said of Vela. "I've known him and played against him in the past and we got on very well, so I'm looking forward to lining up a partnership with him, hopefully win some games and win some trophies [together]."
Bale was equally complimentary of LAFC's other big recent signing, Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
"I've played against Giorgio many times in Europe when he was with Juventus, and also when we've played the Italian National Team,” Bale said. “He's a great player, a great professional, a great ambassador for the game. He's only going to help this team. I think he's the same as me; he wants to give everything possible to try and win games and trophies. I'm excited to play with him as well."
Bale is excited by the fans, excited by his new teammates, and excited to get to the work of filling Los Angeles Football Club's trophy room, but he is also mindful of the challenges that MLS presents for players transitioning to the league and United States. He was asked about those challenges and the trajectory of his transition onto the club, and his understanding of the coming challenges as well as his prior experience with the U.S. during the European offseason give him confidence that he'll be able to make that leap.
“Prior to COVID I used to come to [Los Angeles] for two to four weeks every summer. I know the city a little bit, I have some friends here also, which is helpful." Bale said. "The transition is not an easy one, but I'm looking forward to that challenge. Obviously being in the middle of a season is a bit different, but I've been keeping myself fit and hopefully I can hit the ground running. This Club has made the move so easy for me already; I can just concentrate on my football and do what I do best.
Bale has scored 221 total goals in his career. He has 105 appearances for the Welsh National Team, and played 258 games in a Real Madrid shirt, capturing a record five UEFA Champions League finals victories. His acquisition is a watershed moment for the league as a whole, and his presence sets a very clear standard and intention for LAFC – an intention to win as much as possible. Now that Bale has finished his formal introductions, the work begins. There was a lot of excitement from just about everyone involved with LAFC when Bale made his signing official, but after Monday’s press conference – it is clear that nobody is more excited than Gareth Bale himself.