Why is Gareth Bale heading for Los Angeles – and not Cardiff?
Wales forward Gareth Bale is set to join Major League Soccer side Los Angeles FC next month when his contract with Real Madrid expires.
The five-time Champions League winner was in need of somewhere to play with his country going to their first World Cup in 64 years in November and had been linked with a move to hometown club Cardiff.
So what made Gareth Bale, who has spent eight of the last nine years living in Madrid, choose west coast America over his Wales homeland?
On face value, Los Angeles has a winter average of six hours of sunshine and a temperature of 20 degrees. Perfect golfing weather. Cardiff’s average is eight degrees and three hours.
But surely it cannot have come down to the climate?
Well, no. While a return to his homeland was the romantic option is did not seem particularly practical. Yes, Cardiff share a training facility with the Football Association of Wales but that is where the convenience ends.
Bale played seven club matches last season, due to fitness and selection issues, and the prospect of him facing a 46-game Championship campaign through he depths of winter – a month of the Qatar World Cup aside – seems fanciful.
The MLS season is 34 matches, arguably at a lower intensity and frequency.
Why does Los Angeles FC make sense then?
Bale will join halfway through a season which ends in October, more than a month before the World Cup. As a result the forward, 33 next month, will have much lower expectations on him than had he rocked up at Cardiff and due to the adjustment required with a new team Bale should have chance to ease himself in.
Having a short break immediately before the World Cup, rather than playing right up to nine days before the tournament starts, should also benefit the player and Wales in terms of recovery.
But can he be competitive?
Bale will arrive at a club who are top of the Western Conference and with nine wins and just three defeats LAFC currently have the best record of any team in the MLS.
How he will fit into an already successful team remains to be seen but there is not likely to be an easy ride for the Welshman if he wants genuinely useful playing time.
But there is an opportunity for him as the team’s leading scorer Carlos Vela has just six in 14 matches and their top assist providers Vela, Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios all have only three apiece.
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