FOXBOROUGH — Up close, the famous size 7 left foot of Revolution captain Carles Gil looks petite. It is a Greek foot, with the second toe looking longer than the big toe. Michelangelo’s David is an example of that, a marble statue of the guy who beat Goliath.
Some say Gil’s footwork is a work of art. Out on the pitch, the All-Star midfielder gives the Revolution their best foot forward to win their first MLS championship this year.
“He certainly has a great left foot,” coach Bruce Arena said. “He has a fabulous touch on the ball. He’s one of those rare athletes where the ball is just stuck on his foot. He’s got great control.”
This has been a career year for Gil, 28, a native of Valencia, Spain, who played in England and Spain before coming to the Revolution in 2019.
Gil is the front-runner for the MLS Most Valuable Player award despite missing all of August with a muscle tissue injury. He led MLS in assists with 18 and chances created (a pass leading to a shot) with 117. He matched the MLS record for game-winning assists in a season with eight.
Opponents can’t stop him, so they foul him. Gil was fouled 69 times this season but committed just five himself.
“He’s very deceptive on the ball, he’s quick, he’s got a great first touch, so he’s always in position to avoid tackles,” Arena said. “At times he gets past players and they’ve got to take him down.”
There is another way to stop him, but it’s illegal, and Gil laughs when he talks about it.
“I’m very much ticklish,” he said through a translator. “I don’t like people tickling me.”
It’s also curious that the righthanded Gil is known for his left foot.
“I’m more comfortable with the left foot,” he said. “I use the left foot to find teammates with passes. It’s not normal but I’ve played that way since I was little.”
“Obviously he has the best left foot,” said Shalrie Joseph, the former team captain who is now a Revolution coach. “There’s no one else in this league that can do the things he does.
“He’s by far the MVP this season. He’s not only the best Revolution player, but he will go down as the best in MLS ever.”
Gil and the training staff give the franchise left foot plenty of tender loving care.
‘He’s by far the MVP this season. He’s not only the best Revolution player, but he will go down as the best in MLS ever.’
Shalrie Joseph, Revolution assistant coach
“My foot in general is very sensitive,” Gil said. “When I play a match, the bottom of my foot sometimes gets blisters, so I try my best to cover those so that nothing gets worse. I’ll try to take care of those at halftime or after a match. I think I have my mom’s skin.”
But he’s not a momma’s boy. Surprisingly, the quiet Gil loves to talk trash.
“Yeah, on the field, I change a little bit,” he said. “During games, I might talk a little bit. Sometimes it’s with the refs or the opponents. I’m very competitive. My strong character will come out.”
He said no one is immune to his trash talk except Argentine great Lionel Messi, whom he played against multiple times.
“He’s the best, and we have to thank him for all he’s done for the game,” Gil said.
Revolution forward Teal Bunbury says the 5-foot-7-inch, 146-pound Gil has a build like Messi. In soccer, bigger is not necessarily better.
“It almost suits a soccer player being a little shorter,” Bunbury said. “With his quickness and low center of gravity, they can’t get the ball off of him.”
He likens Gil to a point guard in basketball.
“He has ultimate composure,” Bunbury said. “He wants the ball all the time, even if there’s three guys on him and he’s in the defensive third. People focus on his touch, but his movement off the ball is great. He’s always thinking ahead, thinking quicker than anyone else.”
Gil has made passes at Gillette Stadium that bring back memories of Tom Brady.
“Well logically it’s similar in the sense that the goal is to find our teammates in the best positions to score,” Gil said. “I have that same objective. I’ve learned to find my teammates in spots that are difficult for the opponents to defend.
“Sometimes they’re tough passes, and not all of them will be completed, but the more you attempt them, the more they will be. We have guys like [Gustavo] Bou and [Adam] Buksa who are great players that help make that happen.”
Gil leads by example.
“He’s not a pump-up, rah-rah guy,” teammate Brandon Bye said.
Goalie Brad Knighton agrees.
“He’s not a loud guy,” Knighton said, “but when things go wrong and he wants them to be corrected, when he speaks, everyone listens because it’s from the heart.”
‘A tranquil and normal life’
This has been Gil’s best year, but most people in Boston likely would not recognize him on the street. Only recently have fans started to ask for selfies.
In a 50-minute interview on the roof deck of his luxury Seaport apartment building with stunning skyline views, Gil made clear his love of Boston and playing for the Revolution.
“I come from a different culture, but I enjoy it here,” he said. “Me and my wife, we try to enjoy every day to the maximum. What I like most is summer in the Seaport, everyone is outside, people like to dine out, and that’s what I enjoy the most.
“To be honest, I live a tranquil and normal life. At the end, I’m a very reserved person. I don’t like to share a bunch of things on social media or anything like that.”
Told that teammate Bunbury said he has absolutely no ego, Gil is pleased.
“I think it comes from the education my parents gave me,” he said. “I don’t think I’m more valuable than any of my teammates.”
Playing with the Revolution is fun, he said.
“I don’t want the matches to end, because I’m enjoying them so much,” he said. “In Spain, I had moments where I was in pain and suffering, and there were times when I didn’t want to show up to training or matches.”
Asked if MLS is an easier league to play in, he answers diplomatically.
“I think it’s a league that’s constantly growing,” he says. “If I think the league is a lower-level league, I’m going to say it. But there are more and more players from around the world — South America, Europe — who want to play here.
“In the end, time tells. I think this league will be a potent league, and the same can be said for the United States national team.”
He said fans are different everywhere he has played. In England, they sing songs. In Spain, there’s lots of passion.
“It’s love and hate in Spain, with a lot of suffering,” said Gil. “They don’t enjoy the wins and they suffer through the losses. Here it’s a lot different. You try to enjoy it more, and if you get good results, even better.”
He won’t promise a championship for the Revolution, who have lost five times in the MLS championship final.
“Guarantee it? I can’t,” he said. “But I am planning a trip for my parents the 11th [Dec. 11, the date of the MLS Cup final], and I hope I don’t have to cancel it.
“I’m very confident. We know that we can come out on top against any type of adversity. The playoffs are very special. We know we’re going to play against some really tough teams but we’re very confident.”
Globe correspondent Frank Dell’Apa contributed to this report.
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at email@example.com.