AP source: Gareth Bale signs with MLS leaders Los Angeles FC

Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between the Netherlands and Wales at De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between the Netherlands and Wales at De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)


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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles FC has reached a deal with Welsh forward Gareth Bale to move to Major League Soccer after his departure from Real Madrid, a person close to the deal told The Associated Press.

The person spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity because the details of the 12-month deal are still being finalized between Bale and MLS-leading LAFC, which also added Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini to its roster this month.

The 32-year-old Bale is moving stateside after spending most of the past nine years with Madrid. His contract expires this summer, making him a free agent after his up-and-down tenure with the current Champions League winners finally ends.

Bale is among the most dynamic attacking players of his generation when healthy and on a top team. He scored 106 goals in 258 appearances for Madrid, which won five Champions League titles and three La Liga crowns during his tenure.

But Bale has played sparingly and occasionally ineffectively for Madrid in recent years. He made only seven appearances for the European champions this past season while struggling with several injuries.

Bale also went on a season-long loan to Tottenham in 2020-21, scoring 16 goals in 34 appearances for Spurs. The brilliant goal-scorer joined Madrid from Spurs in 2013 for a then-record transfer fee.

Bale will get a fresh start in the Southern California sunshine alongside Chiellini, who joined LAFC after 17 seasons at Juventus and an impressive international career for Italy.

Bale was rumored to be considering retirement if Wales hadn't qualified for the World Cup, but his national team earned a place in Qatar last month. Bale will be able to chase a trophy in Los Angeles while staying in shape for the rigors of the World Cup competition.

The MLS regular season ends Oct. 9, while the MLS Cup Final — the last potential game of the MLS season — is scheduled for Nov. 5, just over two weeks before the start of the World Cup.

Bale and Chiellini both would be eligible to debut for LAFC after the secondary transfer window opens July 7. LAFC hosts the archrival LA Galaxy on July 8.

They are expected to join a formidable core alongside Mexican striker and former MLS MVP Carlos Vela, whose tenure at LAFC is expected to be extended after his own contract expires this summer.

LAFC is signing both Chiellini and Bale with targeted allocated money, a distinction that leaves open a designated player slot if the club decides to add yet another star player who can be paid above the MLS salary cap.

LAFC has been among MLS' top teams since its founding as an expansion franchise in 2018, but while it won one Supporters' Shield as the regular-season champions, the club has yet to raise the league's postseason trophy.

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Greg Beacham

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