FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Even before arriving in May 2019 to begin assessing his roster, Bruce Arena knew that Carles Gil was a centerpiece of the New England Revolution puzzle.
The crafty Spaniard had only played a dozen games in MLS at that point – he had registered three goals and two assists in his 12 appearances – but Gil’s pedigree in both La Liga and the Premier League spoke for itself, and it was clear even from afar that he had the potential to be a special player.
That initial inclination was only confirmed when Arena began working with Gil on a daily basis.
“I knew that before I came,” Arena said when asked how quickly he’d recognized Gil’s ability. “I’d seen him play, so it was clear to me that he was a pretty good player. And as you work with him every day, you find out even more good things about him, so I think he’s a really important player to have established here in the Revolution.”
Gil is now established in Foxborough for the foreseeable future, having officially signed an extension that keeps him under contract with the club as a Designated Player through the 2024 season. Conversations on a new deal began this past December, according to Arena, who noted that Gil had one more option year remaining in 2022, but “didn’t think it made sense to put him in a position to play out his contract.”
When the club approached Gil about extending his stay in New England, it was clear there was mutual interest.
“There are two sides and you have to reach an agreement, but both the club and myself knew that we wanted the same thing, which was to sign a new contract,” Gil said via translator, although he also answered several questions in English in yet another sign that he has adapted well since arriving stateside in January 2019. “I’m very happy that it became a reality.”
Gil’s time in New England admittedly got off to something of a rough start as the Revs struggled to a 2-8-2 record through the early part of 2019, but Arena’s arrival that May sparked one of the more remarkable single-season turnarounds in MLS history. That summer featured an 11-game unbeaten run (7-0-4) as Gil caught fire, finishing the season with 10 goals, 14 assists, an MLS Best XI selection, and recognition as the MLS Newcomer of the Year.
Although his 2020 season was limited by injury, Gil returned in time to register two goals and three assists in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs as the Revs advanced to last year’s Eastern Conference Final, a magical run that convinced Gil big things are on the horizon in New England.
“Once we started the second half of that  season the team really started moving in the right direction,” said Gil. “We’re still seeing that. The team continues improving each year. The aspirations are high and that’s always good. That makes you want to stay here. I think the club keeps growing and taking steps in the right direction. Hopefully we continue growing and we achieve important things.
“(Bruce) is a very important part. He gave me his confidence when he got here, both myself and all of my teammates. We adjusted to him well and that was clear in the results. It’s important both for myself and the team to have a coach like Bruce. He’s a winner. He’s won the league many times. He’s been able to give us that winning mentality.”
That winning mentality is one of the biggest reasons Gil wanted to extend his stay in New England, but as always, off-the-field considerations are a factor, as well. Gil and his wife live in Boston’s Seaport District, and he’s thoroughly enjoying life as a transplanted New Englander.
“Since I arrived here I’ve really enjoyed the city,” Gil said. “I knew a little bit coming in but the city really exceeded my expectations since I’ve been here. I’m really enjoying myself here. I’m very happy. I enjoy life off the field and that’s something I keep in mind.”
That happiness off the field translates to Gil’s demeanor every day at the Revolution Training Center. While he’s one of the hardest working players on New England’s roster, he also takes time to appreciate the joy that the game brings, and that makes him an ideal co-worker, according to Arena.
“Like any relationship, you always have some kind of complaint about the other person, you know?” Arena asked rhetorically. “Whether it’s a wife, a girlfriend, a son, a brother, an owner, whatever – we all have those issues – but we never have issues with Carles. He comes to work every day with a smile on his face, he works hard in every training session … I think he brings a complete package to us.”
As the complete package, Gil gives the Revs one of the league’s elite playmakers – he leads MLS in chances created, big chances created, chances created from set play, and successful crosses and corners through the season’s first month – but he’s also a leader in the locker room.
Arena installed Gil as club captain shortly after arriving, and with Gil’s future now secured in New England, Arena believes his influence as a leader will only continue to grow.
“Now that it’s established he’s going to be probably around longer than the coach here, I think it’s important that he becomes not only the leader on the field by what he produces, but also the leader off the field, as well,” said Arena. “Verbally, and on the field, I think he now can be a real commanding presence in our program.”
Gil appears to be well on his way to securing that kind of stature with the Revolution, and there’s excitement about what the future holds both for the player and the club. Already in 2021 Gil has registered one goal and four assists as the Revs have climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, capped most recently by a 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
Those types of results have Gil smiling, and his contract extension should keep both him and Revolution fans smiling for years to come.
“I think in the end, this just shows how I feel here; I’m very happy,” Gil said. “It’s my third year. With this new contract I’ll have many more. I think I have everything here. I’m happy both in the city and in the club, with my teammates, with the technical staff, with everyone. I’m just very happy.”