Gareth Bale: Why LAFC deal is a surprise, but Celtic and Rangers move to follow Aaron Ramsey was too risky

With at least one eye on the Middle East, Gareth Bale has opted to go west, way west, and joined LAFC in America’s MLS for a year, ending weeks of speculation over his future beyond Real Madrid.

There was interest from the English Premier League in Newcastle and Spurs, in his homeland at Cardiff and even Rangers and Celtic touted in some quarters and bookmakers’ markets aiming to cash in on the next stopping point for one of the world’s most valuable players.

Yet Los Angeles, for all its TinselTown and showbiz pizzazz still strikes as an odd choice for a 32-year-old once criticised at the Bernabeu for an ‘introverted personality’. One who is preparing to take his country to their first World Cup Finals since 1958. One who has already made many millions operating in two of Europe’s great cities, London and Madrid.

A move to the opposite side of the Atlantic, and then the far-away coast of America, is a move in the wrong direction from Wales and Qatar – where Bale’s focus undoubtedly is for the remainder of this year.

He had suitors at home but while it is not a top league in Europe, Bale doesn’t need to prove himself anymore beyond nine years and four Champions League at the Bernabeu. He joins a club on an upward curve with financial clout – they have just recruited Giorgio Chiellini and are the country’s top team. Winning mentality cannot be underestimated heading into a major tournament.

That, unquestionably is the focus, and one which other clubs – perhaps on these shores, would demand be shared with their own domestic ambitions. It is now a question of match sharpness for Bale and the MLS calendar suits his aims, running until October, allowing a natural break to prepare for the World Cup before the second half of his 12-month deal. It’s a duration which has lent itself to rumours he may bow out on a high after Wales’ historic appearance and some family-friendly months like Steven Gerrard did at the city’s Galaxy in 2016.

It is a far cry from Cardiff, which bore an emotional transfer pull, a romantic chapter in the homeland hero’s career story, based in Wales either side of ending their 64-year World Cup wait. The scrutiny would be intense, not to mention the playing style and pressure of the Championship. Cardiff are pushing for promotion and it’s perhaps why Bale has opted away from England, and the UK, to the relative anonymity of multiple shared spotlights among the stars in Hollywood’s hills.

Here, he would have been the big name wherever he was, Cardiff, London, Newcastle or Glasgow.

Wales' striker Gareth Bale (L) celebrates with teammates after winning the FIFA World Cup 2022 play-off final against Ukraine. (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images)

Ally McCoist stoked that particular fire, fuelled by Rangers’ recruitment of Bale’s international team-mate Aaron Ramsey.

Wages would obviously have been a hurdle, likely insurmountable despite the fortunes Bale has amassed across London and Madrid. There were merits to a move. Rangers or Celtic would have each provided a club more fitting to his big-name stature, an avenue into European competition, and fulfilled that pressure to win weekly he was used to in Madrid.

Ramsey had already paved the way and as he proved, it’s also close enough home for a Welshman without being too much of the EPL spotlight.

But it’s the Ramsey move which would both make and break this nominal suggestion. Scotland had its benefits, but Rangers had their fingers burned.

Since Bale moved to Madrid nine years ago, success has followed particularly in the UEFA Champions League. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The reasons for Bale to find a new club were the same as his Welsh team-mate’s in January – six months before a crucial international occasion and for all the move didn’t pan out the way Rangers had hoped, for Ramsey it paid off. He was in-sight if not scrutinised, playing albeit not at peak level, and fit after being frozen out at Juventus. Wales progressed. Job done.

Could that have had a bearing on Bale with the same objective - finding form and football before the World Cup? A player of his calibre would dominate games in the SPFL much in the way he does for Wales, but the league’s intensity that mirrors the Championship almost did for Ramsey. Qatar would not be risked. Bale has missed more games through injury than his Welsh team-mate’s much-maligned medical record.

The MLS, the lifestyle, the calendar, it all fits. The SPFL speculation was always loose, McCoist dangling Scotland's home of golf reputation at the end of his radio talk-show fishing rod, as is the idle chatter he could even call time on his own career shortly to spend more time on the golf course. California has plenty.

In that respect, seeing it out his days on Rodeo Drive holds more appeal than Sauchiehall Street, but the crux for Bale beyond golf and the lifestyle remains he is fit and ready for his big bow in Qatar, wherever in the world he may be. It just won’t be Scotland.

Joe Allen, Connor Roberts, Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale, Ethan Ampadu and Neco Williams of Wales celebrate together as they qualify for the World Cup. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale of Wales celebrate but there was little prospect of the Real Madrid man following his Juventus counter-part to Glasgow. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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