Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Gareth Bale received a personal message from Hollywood star Will Ferrell as Los Angeles FC rolled out the red carpet when signing the Wales international for the World Cup build-up and beyond.
There was intense speculation about the 33-year-old’s future – and even talk about his love for the sport – after a medal-laden spell with Real Madrid came to a frustrating end.
Bale was linked with a move to hometown club Cardiff ahead of Wales’ appearance at the winter World Cup, but LAFC swept in under the radar and brought him to Major League Soccer.
It is a signing befitting the city of stars, where the forward has signed a 12-month contact with an option through to 2024.
“I will tell you the absolute, honest truth, until I saw a signature I never believed it would happen,” LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington told the PA news agency.
“But everything trended positively throughout and it was a fairly linear process. It was sort of step by step.
“He had some questions and we would bring in that expert to talk about it – whether that would be our strength and conditioning staff, whether it was bringing an owner into the conversation.
“We just had probably five, six conversations, and I think each got us a step closer to the deal.
“We were a totally different opportunity and I was not surprised to hear there was competition in Europe.
“But I think what helped is Gareth’s knowledge of LA, getting to know what the club offered, which was unique relative to the other options, and we were grateful that the stars aligned, and we’re able to do.”
Representatives sounded out LAFC to see if they were interested in Bale after Wales’ World Cup play-off win against Ukraine – a period when the club were completing a deal for Italy’s Euro-winning captain Giorgio Chiellini.
They are the highest-profile signings to date for a club that have made a splash since their MLS debut in 2018, with boisterous, sell-out crowds cheering on a side backed by an ownership group that includes actor Ferrell.
“I can’t remember exactly what stage in the conversation it was but he did receive a personal message from Will Ferrell,” Thorrington said.
“We have an amazing group of owners, who are very committed to delivering on these lofty ambitions.”
Bale has scored twice in his first four appearances for LAFC, who welcome Wayne Rooney’s DC United to the Banc of California Stadium on Tuesday.
The runaway MLS leaders are eyeing a seventh straight victory and Thorrington is excited by what Bale will bring to their charge for silverware.
— LAFC (@LAFC) December 14, 2018
“We were very clear from the outset as to what we could put together as a package for Gareth – and I think the key to the deal was never finances,” said the Manchester United youth product, who played for Huddersfield and Grimsby.
“I mean, we can’t compete with Real Madrid and these, so I think the conversation was less about economics and more about everything else. I think that just showed where Gareth’s priorities are.
“It was to be in an environment where he felt he could thrive and be comfortable, where his family could be comfortable and put himself in a position where he can succeed in preparation for the World Cup and for the next few years of his career.”
Put to Thorrington there had been a perception that Bale just needed to play for the World Cup, he said: “Yeah, so that, again, was part of the conversation, which was ‘what are you seeing in this?’ because that could have been true.
“If he would have said to us ‘look, I just want to get to the World Cup and we’ll take it from there’ we would have said ‘OK, let’s talk about that’.
“But it was very clear to us that this was not just a short-term decision for Gareth and his family. That he wanted to think longer term, which is why we structured the deal accordingly.
“It was very clear to us that Gareth’s intent and desire was to find an agreement that extended beyond just the World Cup.”