Carlos Vela says he had some of "the best years of my life" with Real Sociedad but believes the time has come for a new chapter in his playing career.
The Mexico international is set to play his last game for La Real on Wednesday when the Basque club hosts Sevilla. He'll then move back across the Atlantic to join MLS expansion team LAFC, which Vela says fulfills a long-time goal of living and working in the U.S.
"I’m going at the right time with the desire to try a new adventure, to be close to my country, where my family can visit more often, where I can go home more often, where I’ve always been drawn to the way they live, the way they let people live, how they think about football and all sports in general," Vela told the La Liga side's official website. "It’s always been a country where I’ve wanted to live.
"I always knew that sooner or later I’d have the opportunity to live there, try to work there, and the time has come, with the right city and the team with the project I’ve been looking for, that I’ve been waiting for. Here, also, there’s a time that comes where you say, ‘I need a change. I’ve given everything for the team,’ and I think the change will be good for everyone. That’s why I made this decision."
The 28-year-old has been with Real Sociedad since 2011, when he was loaned there from Arsenal. Vela reflected on the club's progression from fighting relegation when he arrived to one that views missing out on the European places as a failure. The club and the player have grown up together, with Vela coming in as an inconsistent striker prospect with a questionable disciplinary record and leaving as a versatile forward or winger who also is now a father.
His talents stood out early, with Vela signing for Chivas but moving to Arsenal after solid performances in the 2005 U-17 World Cup. His youth worked against him, though, as he was unable to find a place in the Arsenal team. Real Sociedad was the fifth time Vela had been on loan from the Gunners, but it was in San Sebastian he felt like he was starting to feel at home after a difficult adjustment period. After staying a season on loan, Vela and the club agreed to a long-term deal in 2012 and he was named the team's Player of the Year in both the 2011–12 and 2013–14 campaigns.
"If I'm being honest with you, and the other day I was talking about this with (Real Sociedad president) Jokin (Aperribay) about this, I was thinking of one or two years here as a lot, even more because of how my career had gone," he said. "My life was always one year here, I squeezed out what I could from it, enjoyed it the most possible and changed. That was the way of life I had. Arriving here, feeling comfortable, the people accepted me in an incredible way ... that's why I'm so good at changing.
"I started to see things that hadn't happened to me, started to feel things I hadn't felt other places and I thought that I didn't want to leave this. After that comes all the beautiful things that come with having a family, a child, a girlfriend, a lot of friends. The best decision I've made was the one to stay in San Sebastian."
Now, he feels that the best decision for him and his family is to leave the city on the Bay of Biscay to move to the metropolis that borders the Pacific Ocean. LAFC is an exciting project, with former U.S. national team manager Bob Bradley assembling a squad that hopes to compete in its first year of existence. Vela knows, though, that even as he looks to star with LAFC and help the Mexico national team achieve its goals in Russia, he'll always have a connection to Real Sociedad.
"I'm taking a thousand things, first of all a Basque girlfriend and Basque son, that for me really stands out for my life because it means that I started my 'family life' here we might say," he said. "From there, everything else happening here, from people who treated me incredibly and who will treat me incredibly because I know that I'll be back, that we'll stay in touch. I know I'm not going to detach that easily because they're going to stay in touch and we'll have the same friendship from now. There's no complaints or anything, not with the city, which I enjoyed, I had fun, I ate well, it's an incredibly beautiful city. I have everything I need to say that these were the best years of my life."