Carles Gil being named the 2021 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player was a reminder of what we all know: The playmaker is special.
Watch any game and you’ll likely see Gil dangle an opponent with his footwork or split the defense with a pass. These moments soon appear as souvenir gifs of Gil’s greatness.
Like most, Bruce Arena was afar when he first took note of Gil’s unique talent.
Gil was brought to New England at the start of 2019 by then head coach Brad Friedel. This is when Arena got his first glimpse at the player who would become his reliable No. 10.
“I remember before I came here, [I was] watching a few New England Revolution games at the beginning of 2019 and he kind of stuck out like a sore thumb on a team that wasn’t in synch,” Arena told media on Tuesday. “I thought he was an interesting player.”
Arena got a closer look at Gil when he was hired as the Revolution’s head coach and sporting director in May. Just as suspected, Gil was a one-of-a-kind player. Perhaps unexpected was Gil being an upstanding person.
“I think that in this day and age we see that athletes are sometimes different and difficult to work with,” Arena noted. “When your best player sets the best example, a lot of players follow so that’s been outstanding.”
Revolution legend Taylor Twellman also believes that Gil has many special qualities, noting that he’s reminded a bit of Steve Ralston. Twellman has discussed Gil’s ability when speaking to former teammates such as Ralston, Shalrie Joseph, and Pat Noonan and they all agree that he’s elite.
“Carles is a special player,” Twellman said. “He’s just different. He makes everyone around him better.”
No one knows that more than Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa, who often combine with Gil on the attacking end of the field. Bou’s 15 goals and Buksa’s 16 goals in 2021 gave the Revs two 15+ goal scorers for the first time in club history.
Still, Twellman wonders if those attackers can offer more if they’re playing in front of Gil.
“A lot of the goals that the Revs scored looked easy but that’s because [Gil] was kind of making the play on his own,” Twellman said. “If you’re Gustavo Bou or Adam Buksa, you’re kind of licking your chops, saying, ‘Maybe I should score 25-30 goals a year playing with a guy like that.’ He’s that type of player.”
But like Arena, Twellman is quick to recognize that Gil’s positive qualities aren’t limited to the field. The Spaniard has become comfortable speaking English since arriving in the United States, which Twellman says is a sign of “commitment to buying into the culture, buying into the team.”
Gil admits that he wasn’t always sure if coming to the United States to play in MLS was the right choice, admitting that at first “it was difficult.” Gil was able to adjust with time and soon realized “it was a great decision.”
Two years after making what club president Brian Bilello called “a leap of faith,” Gil signed a contract extension that will keep him in New England through 2024. More years will only solidify that this special player deserves a special place in club history.
“If he stays healthy and he plays here for 7, 8, 9 years, he’s the best player the Revs have ever had,” Twellman commented.