Ever since his 2005 arrival at Arsenal as one of the brightest prospects on the planet, it's been a long and winding road for Carlos Vela.
16 years on, after Vela's career in Europe hadn't quite hit the heights that the watching world had expected, he's forged a home with Los Angeles FC.
🔴 Vela at Arsenal
After work permit issues and various loans away from the club, Vela eventually made his Arsenal debut in August 2008, some three years after signing for the Gunners. He had to settle for a bit-part role, mainly given first-team opportunities in cup competitions, but that didn't stop him from scoring screamers with that educated left peg.
Happy 32nd Birthday to Carlos Vela, scores some beauties did this lad 🔥pic.twitter.com/tSgIXyFvL8— Gunners (@Gunnersc0m) March 1, 2021
🍁 Leaving London
Vela was loaned out to West Bromwich Albion and Real Sociedad in 2011, and the move to La Real was made permanent for €14m in 2012. He spent six successful years in San Sebastián, weighing in with 73 goals & 43 assists in 250 appearances for the Basque club.
🦆 Moving across the pond
Three years ago Vela made, what was at that stage, a pretty unconventional move to the United States MLS. He's thrived in Los Angeles, scoring 62 goals in 80 appearances, winning the Supporter's Shield in 2019 and being crowned as the league's MVP.
Vela, Zlatan, and Josef were on another level. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/A21fBCPxCy— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 9, 2019
Vela had agreed to join Barcelona on loan in the same year but the move was held up by LAFC wanting to keep hold of their star striker.
🍹 Sipping on a Piña Colada when Barça called
"It was really close," he told BS The Podcast. "My second month for holidays, I was there with my pina colada and my agent called me to say 'look, Barcelona is calling you. They want you to play for four months then you can go back to LA'.
"I said just say yes, I don't care about the money or anything. I'm going to start training tomorrow, give me two weeks to be a little bit fit. Barcelona, Real Madrid you can't say no... If it was only my choice, for sure, I'd take it."
Carlos Vela: "LAFC did not give me permission to leave" when Barcelona offered a four-month contract https://t.co/dkssNu3Ilc— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) March 28, 2020
"But LAFC did not make it easy for me to leave, although it is understandable. In the end, they seek the best for themselves and everyone else does too. I tried, it didn't come off and there's no problem because I am more than happy here."
🇺🇸 MVP ahead of Zlatan
Vela beat Zlatan to the 2019 MLS MVP with his record regular-season tally of 34 goals, supplemented by 15 assists in what was a brilliant season in the Black & Gold jersey of LAFC. Vela and his LAFC teammates eliminated the Galaxy in the 2019 MLS Conference Cup Semifinals, only to fall at the final hurdle against the Seattle Sounders.
Despite that disappointment, Vela's left foot was one of the enduring memories of the season.
When Carlos Vela went off 🤩 pic.twitter.com/b0naEAhpvW— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 26, 2021
🛣 Vela's club journey
Aside from making 72 appearances for the Mexican national team and scoring 19 goals for El Tri, Vela is a well-travelled veteran of the club scene too.
- 🇲🇽 Guadalajara
- 🇲🇽 Chivas
- 🏴 Arsenal
- 🇪🇸 Celta Vigo (loan)
- 🇪🇸 Salamanca (loan)
- 🇪🇸 Osasuna (loan)
- 🏴 West Brom (loan)
- 🇪🇸 Real Sociedad (loan)
- 🇪🇸 Real Sociedad
- 🇺🇸 Los Angeles FC
Arsenal fans will surely think back on what might have been if Vela had stayed the course at Emirates Stadium. Time flies when you're having fun, though, and the talented left-footer has certainly done that.