Rumours abound among Major League Soccer pundits and fans, as superstar attacking midfielder Carlos Vela hinted heavily at a return to European football.
Los Angeles FC have an option to retain the Mexican for 2022, but interviews and other comments suggest that Vela has itchy feet, and a return to elite European football could be on the cards as he enters the twilight of his career.
LA FC fans will be disappointed to see him go – if he does – but will have great memories of the 2019 MLS Most Valuable Player’s four-year tenure at the club.
A return to European football?
After a successful spell in MLS for Los Angeles FC, Carlos Vela is being tempted by a return to European football.
While no clubs have been confirmed as having approached the player, comments he made in interviews set the rumour mill in motion.
“Obviously, I miss playing in Europe, it is my last year, and then we will see what will happen,” he said in an interview this week. His contract is up in December, and although LA FC have an option to extend, it sounds like Vela is keen for a change.
Early career and Arsenal
Carlos Vela’s career started as a junior at Guadalajara, alongside his older brother Alejandro, a midfielder. As their hometown of Cancun had been struck by heavy storms, he requested (and was granted) relocation of his family as part of his contract.
His performances at the junior level attracted many big teams from around Europe, leading him to sign for Arsenal in 2005.
He didn’t play for the Gunners for the first two seasons due to work-permit problems, and he spent spells on loan at Spanish clubs Salamanca and Osasuna before returning to Arsenal for three seasons between 2008 and 2011.
His time at Arsenal was a success, and his creative flair and dribbling skill was noteworthy in the Premier League. In the League Cup against Sheffield Wednesday, Vela scored a hat-trick in a 6–0 win, with his second goal voted as one of Arsenal’s Greatest 50 Goals.
Towards the end of the 2010-11 season, he was loaned to West Bromwich Albion, scoring two goals in his eight appearances for the Baggies.
On 15 August 2011, Arsenal announced that Vela would be loaned out to Spanish club Real Sociedad, and rumours soon started swirling that he would move to the club permanently.
He did so the next season and enjoyed a successful period in La Liga, becoming more prolific in front of goal, with 14 goals in the 2012-13 season.
He was twice named La Liga player of the month while at Real Sociedad and played a crucial role in their league campaigns throughout his seven years at the club.
But his time there was not without controversy – in 2016, it was reported that Vela failed to report for training two days earlier, claiming he was suffering from gastroenteritis, though a photo began circulating on social media of him attending a Chris Brown concert in Madrid hours after the team’s 1–1 draw against Levante.
This was not the first time in his career that he’d been penalized for partying – and it earned him a fine and a one-match suspension. In his time at Real Sociedad, he scored 61 goals in 213 appearances in all competitions.
Los Angeles FC
Vela became the first designated player for LA FC when he joined in 2018 and was made captain in August of that year.
He quickly became a fan favourite with numerous goals and assists and led the team close to victory over Italian giants Juventus, losing 5-3 on penalties after a hard-fought match.
In November 2018, he was selected for the MLS Best XI of 2018. Early in 2019, more rumours surfaced of a possible move to Barcelona, but despite interest, Vela opted to stay with LA FC and enjoyed his most successful season with the club, earning the MLS MVP award for his prowess.
He finished the season with a record of 34 goals and 15 assists, for a combined record of 49 points, which earned him the MLS Golden Boot award as the league’s top-scorer – for a season, he also became the top scorer in the history of MLS.
Though linked to a move back to Europe, the latest news reports revealed Vela says he is committed to the team as they vie for a place in the playoffs, according to soccer expert at WSN.com Cesar Hernandez.
Vela has had a tempestuous relationship with the Mexican national team, twice going on hiatus and making himself unavailable for a variety of reasons – conflicts with the coach, his mental health and other personal problems, injury, and prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, his own uncertainty about his commitment.
Vela stated that he did not wish to take a place on the team that a hungrier, more committed player could take. He played for Mexico in the 2018 World Cup but has since ruled himself out again.
Is Carlos Vela heading back to Europe? Nothing is confirmed yet, but those in the know, and Carlos himself, seem to think it’s going to happen.