“It’s a fairly obvious fit”: New LAFC signing Cristian Tello checks all the boxes
For a team with an embarrassment of riches in attack, LAFC were hardly pressed to sign Cristian Tello shortly before the MLS Roster Freeze Date on Sept. 2.
However, ask co-president and general manager John Thorrington and he’d argue that the ex-Barcelona and Real Betis winger, who arrived at the club as a free transfer, was too good an option to pass up.
“When you watch how Cristian plays you can very easily translate how that’ll fit with LAFC,” Thorrington said of the 31-year-old Spaniard, the last in a flurry of superstar summer signings that also included legendary Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and fellow offensive heavyweights Gareth Bale and Denis Bouanga, as well as midfielder Sebastian Mendez (trade from Orlando City).
Tello’s skills and formation in the famed La Masia Academy, specifically, made him an obvious choice for a club that was looking to stay stacked on the wing after the recent transfer of Brian Rodriguez to Liga MX’s Club América.
“We were evaluating whether we were going to sell Brian Rodriguez or not,” explained Thorrington. “We were only willing to make certain decisions provided we could do other things. So we moved very quickly with Cristian.
“When you think about principles and style of play and a player’s formation, their education, their formation – when it comes to a place like Barcelona – for us it’s really appealing.”
So appealing, in fact, that the Black & Gold didn’t need to do much scouting on the player who boasts 28 goals and 24 assists in 199 LaLiga appearances.
“With Cristian, it’s a fairly obvious fit because of how he plays, where he plays, the places he’s played,” Thorrington said. “There’s a lot of overlap in what we try to do.”
Head coach Steve Cherundolo echoed that sentiment regarding Tello, who’s officially cleared to make his MLS debut on Saturday at FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). LAFC, Supporters’ Shield leaders, can soon clinch the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed.
“His integration process has been very, very easy on the field,” Cherundolo said. “Now the immigration process is completed, and he can help us in game situations.”
As for just how much LAFC need his help up top with the likes of Vela, Bale and Bouanga – not to mention leading goalscorer Chicho Arango (15g/5a) – already at his disposal, Cherundolo was non-committal.
“I could tell you his chances would be greater if he was here earlier,” the first-year manager said, in reference to the five remaining games on the team’s regular-season schedule ahead of the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“But we feel very comfortable with putting him in and him having an impact.”
Tello relishes the opportunity to make his mark on a team that has both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup within reach during the season’s final stretch.
“It’s an important challenge. I’m joining a club that has many top-level players, like all big clubs have,” Tello said.
“The goal is to work my hardest so that the coach sees that I’m physically fit and I can take the step into the starting XI and play my part.”
And, with a club option to extend Tello through 2023 and 2024, Thorrington is also thinking beyond this season.
“He’s a player who will help us in our objectives,” Thorrington said. “Not just now, but into the future.”