Major League Soccer-bound Carlos Vela bid an emotional farewell to Real Sociedad after scoring in his last game for the club.
The Mexico international, who will join Los Angeles FC in January, came on as a second-half substitute and scored the third goal in a 3-1 home win over Sevilla on Wednesday.
“Not even in my best dream could I have asked for a better way to finish than this,” the 28-year-old striker said in the postmatch news conference. “I’ve enjoyed every minute. It’s been incredible and I thank Real Sociedad. I’ve given everything to the club. I’ve always been Carlos Vela — sincere, original and true to myself. A part of me will stay at La Real and San Sebastian.”
The strike against Sevilla was Vela’s 73rd in his 250th game for the Basque club, who he joined in the summer of 2011 from Arsenal.
Now, Vela is looking ahead to his new challenge in MLS.
“I’ve been 12 years in Europe and the right project has come along,” he said. “I took the decision that the time had come [to leave] and I don’t regret it, not at all. I’m going to keep playing football and be important. I want to achieve new aims.
“I’m going there [Los Angeles] with the ambition of continuing to win in MLS. I also want to be closer to home and I now have the opportunity to live in a country like the United States where I’ve always wanted to be.”
La Real fans displayed a big banner in the Anoeta stands on Wednesday with a photograph of Vela and his No. 11 jersey with the words “Thank you” written in Basque.
— Toño (@jamygolf) December 20, 2017
After the game, Vela was thrown up in the air by his teammates. He was the last player to leave the pitch, and held his son in his arms while accompanied by his girlfriend.
Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann, who played with Vela from 2011 until 2014 at Socieded, tweeted: Thank you for your football and your friendship Carlitos!!”
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.