It has been seemingly teased forever that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was going to leave Manchester United to come to MLS and sign with the LA Galaxy. Now, it seems like it’s actually going to happen.
First, ESPN’s Mark Ogden reported that Man United manager Jose Mourinho was willing to let Zlatan leave before his contract ran out this summer in order to sign a deal in the United States. Now, LA Galaxy beat writer for the LA Times Kevin Baxter tweeted that the deal is done and Zlatan is indeed going to the Galaxy.
— Kevin Baxter (@kbaxter11) March 22, 2018
Despite the fact that Zlatan is 36 and is getting over a torn ACL, this isn’t a sign that MLS has gone back to their “retirement league” persona. The league has signed more designated players and, on average, younger designated players over the past year or two.
Yes, Zlatan is 36 and this is likely his last team before retiring. Yes, this will bring MLS more publicity worldwide and give the Galaxy something on their brand new crosstown rivals LAFC. So it is a DP move that would have been made with regularity five years ago but it’s now the exception and not the rule.
Publicity aside, how will Zlatan fare in MLS? This depends on how the Galaxy will utilize him. If he plays the occasional game, Zlatan may have a career similar to Didier Drogba in Montreal. It wasn’t the best MLS career ever but Drogba’s career was solid, Montreal picked their spots to play him and Drogba got 21 goals in two seasons.
Unfortunately, I can see Zlatan’s MLS career being similar to that of Andrea Pirlo or Steven Gerrard. A legend who came in, possibly underestimated how tough the league would be, and really struggled. I honestly don’t know Zlatan’s mindset coming in but even if he knows it’ll be tough, it may not work out. Zlatan is still getting over a serious knee injury and he’s 36. Add in the kind of ungodly travel or playing surfaces or the extreme heat, humidity and altitude of some places that definitely isn’t what he’s used to in Europe and the odds are stacked in a way Zlatan has never experienced before. He might’ve been able to handle that as a 30-year-old, but I can’t see Zlatan being as effective as a 36-year-old.
It’ll get eyeballs, but not really for the gameplay, just for the flash of seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic in MLS.
UPDATE: Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated reports that the LA Galaxy signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a two-year deal worth $3 million covered by TAM.