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Warning! Zlatan Coming to Major League Soccer

March 25th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, soccer

It is part of the original Major League Soccer playbook: When trying to gain attention, sign someone with a big name.

And few names in soccer are bigger than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the towering forward from Sweden and veteran of many of the biggest club sides in the world.

He is a different sort of end-of-career MLS import. David Beckham was about fame and a star actor’s mug. Kaka was Brazil’s best player, there for a time. Thierry Henry retained a quiet dignity.

Zlatan (as he prefers to be known) is about goals, but he is also about self-aggrandizement, dust-ups from time to time with teammates, coaches and referees, and he brings to mind the more theatrical late-career imports of the early and desperate MLS years — the Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos and the Colombian midfielder Carlos Valderrama.

Ibrahimovic is of that ilk, and at least one columnist decries the sudden lurch from MLS clubs trying to build from within and the fallback position of recruiting a global star to jog around for a season or two.

This is what Zlatan said in a short video released by the MLS:

“I think the Galaxy is the right place for me. I think I have a lot to give and I can help them a lot. And it’s the best team in the U.S.”

“There were no doubts.”

On his expectations: “I have a lot of expectations. I put a lot of pressure on myself . I demand a lot in my game. A lot from me, as a person, when it comes to responsibility. I think I have a lot to bring and to give, so with that experience i have, I just share it with me the other ones. Hopefully, it goes like I want and we can all share the happiness by winning.”

On his fitness: “I feel good. I feel good. I’m training very hard. I haven’t played games for a while but that is what I miss now. I need to play games to go in that rhythm and the more I play the better it will be. I’m just excited and looking forward for the games, feeling involved and playing the game I love to do. Just like a normal day at work.”

His goals while with the Galaxy?

“I want to accomplish as much as possible. Wherever I went, I won. It’s no secret. And I played in many clubs and I played in the best clubs in the world, different countries, and I won. So I’m coming with this objective: I come to win. I wanna win.

“I think it’s in my DNA that I’m winning my trophies. Is no luck, no special moment. It’s just me. So hopefully I come with this and bring it with me, for the next challenge. So, it will not change anything; just different players but same club.”

Things to know about Zlatan:

–He often speaks in the third person, which is pretty much a reliable tip-off of a world-class ego. His autobiography is entited: “I Am Zlatan”.

–He is a brute. Not only because he is a brawny 6-foot-5 and intimidates opponents with his size and strength, but because he gets in the occasional scrap with teammates or opponents or even Pep Guardiola while Zlatan was at Barcelona. The idea of physical violence never seems far away.

–He suffered a major knee injury while playing for Manchester United in April of last year, and he’s just now coming around — but not enough so that United coach Jose Mourinho wanted to keep him. To be sure, Zlatan’s metier is scoring headers; he is a bit like a piece of artillery that is laboriously moved into position and then begins a cannonade of goal; a guy does not need pristine knee ligaments to do that.

–He has played for seven clubs, in this order: Malmo of Sweden, Ajax of Amsterdam, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United. He won league championships with Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona, AC Milan and PSG. He and United won a Europa League cup last year. And he has scored: more than 450 goals, for his club and for Sweden.

–He is 36. So it is not just the collisions and insults of playing that slows him, the man also is reaching soccer senescence. Given his nearly one year from significant competition, he may never really come back, even with the Galaxy.

But there will be noise. Which perhaps is what the Galaxy is banking on. The club is off to a sluggish start and already lags behind new local competition, Los Angeles FC, coached by Bob Bradley.

MLS, or Zlatan’s people, or maybe it was the Galaxy, helped him announce his pending arrival in the U.S. by buying a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times. Just a blank, white page with Ibrahimovic’s signature in one corner, a Galaxy logo in another and this message: “Dear Los Angeles, You’re Welcome.”

If he has anything left, he could help make the Galaxy better — assuming, of course, that his teammates realize he is the star of the show. (And I pity Sigi Schmid, the coach, at this moment.)

But he could have reached the point where he is not so much Robbie Keane, Irish import who helped the Galaxy win championships, but a Campos cavorting in goal or a Valderrama tidying up his perm.




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