MLS Cup could be final bow for Chiellini and Vela

MLS Cup could be final bow for Chiellini and Vela

© AFP 2022
December 7, 2023 at 9:52 PM
Former Juventus and Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini has yet to decide whether he will retire after Saturday's MLS Cup final against Columbus Crew
Former Juventus and Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini has yet to decide whether he will retire after Saturday's MLS Cup final against Columbus Crew. Photo: Frederic J. BROWN / AFP
Source: AFP

Los Angeles FC are one win away from becoming just the third team in Major League Soccer's history to win back-to-back titles but for the club's two best known players Saturday's championship game could also be their final bow.

Former Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini and ex-Mexico striker Carlos Vela head into Saturday's MLS Cup game against the Columbus Crew knowing that their contracts run out after the game.

And while both players insist their minds are totally focused on another title, to follow last year's victory over the Philadelphia Union, they also admit their personal futures are up in the air.

For the 39-year-old Chiellini, Saturday's game at Lower.com stadium could even be his last ever in the professional game.

The former Juventus defender, who won nine Serie A titles with the Turin club and also captained Italy to their Euro 2020 triumph, says he will ponder his future after the final.

"The club has been open with me and has given me the total freedom to decide," Chiellini told a news conference on Thursday.

"I still am in doubt. I have to understand what I have to follow - my head or my heart?" he said.

"Next week I will talk with my family and try to understand better what's next and the right decision. Yeah, it could be (my last game), could not be, we'll see. But now I'm really enjoying everything," he added.

Chiellini, who has struggled with injuries at times this season, has talked of a possible future in coaching or in the media but is clearly enjoying life in California with his young family and says he certainly won't leave the area until the end of the school year in June.

Vela, five years younger, isn't thinking of hanging up his boots just yet but having been with LAFC since their arrival in MLS in 2018, he remains unsure of where he will be playing next season.

For the MLS Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player in 2019, who made 72 appearances for his country and played in Spain for Real Sociedad after struggling to make an impact with Arsenal in the Premier League, the situation is more complex.

'It's a business'

A 'designated player' on a high salary, his departure, while a loss to the team, would also open up the possibility of the club making a move for a younger big-name star.

"My contract says Sunday I'm free. It's the only thing I know for sure because it's what is written on paper. Everybody knows how happy I am in L.A., how happy I am in this team but it's a job, it's a business.

"We know sometimes it's (not happening) the way you want. We are two different sides and we have to be on the same page. But I'm not thinking about that, I'm thinking just about the final and the big chance we have to win the trophy," he said.

"After that we will have time to talk and see if something works. If it doesn't, everybody will (go) on their way and we'll have good memories and good history together," he said.

Los Angeles FC's Mexican forward Carlos Vela is out of contract after Saturday's MLS Cup final against Columbus Crew
Los Angeles FC's Mexican forward Carlos Vela is out of contract after Saturday's MLS Cup final against Columbus Crew. Photo: Frederic J. BROWN / AFP
Source: AFP

Vela certainly believes he is capable of performing at a high level for a little while longer regardless of the outcome of his talks with LAFC.

"We will have conversations and see if we can continue, if we both want to continue, I'm happy to continue, but if not, I will look for another opportunity and continue enjoying what little football I have left, maybe one or two more years, the end is near and you have to enjoy it," he said.

In all competitions, Vela has scored 93 goals in 187 appearances for LAFC but while his goal rate has slowed down, he scored 14 in 48 games this year, he has evolved into a more deeper lying creative player.

LAFC's goals have come mainly from France-born striker Denis Bouanga, MLS's top scorer in the regular season with 20 goals and he says that Vela remains a key figure.

"He is the kind of player who if he isn't scoring, he is creating with passes, we compliment each other perfectly and it is really great for me to have him on the field, We understand each other so well," said the Gabon international.

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© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022