Why Zlatan Ibrahimovic's impact in MLS will be bigger than you think
It took longer than expected but it has finally happened. After an injury-plagued season where he couldn't perform as he did in his first season with Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimovic left Old Trafford for the destination everyone anticipated. The Swede made the switch to MLS. He is now officially a Los Angeles Galaxy player. Could there be any better place than Hollywood for football's ultimate showman to stage the final act in his career?
The former Paris-Saint-Germain, Ajax, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter and AC Milan star landed on US soil looking to become a legend in yet another league. He is following in the footsteps of many European greats, including Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Kaka. He has chosen the same club as former PSG teammate and fellow celebrity David Beckham.
While he is no the first to make the cross-Atlantic trek Zlatan is in a class of his own. He is not only a very good player who could easily remain in Europe, but a marketable asset with a decidedly different appeal than Beckham. Golden Balls is polished and elegant. Ibra is a friendly but untamed lion. And he is the biggest name to join the league since Mr Spice. Teammates Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos and LAFC frontman Carlos Vela are huge for what they represent to the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles but Zlatan transcends demographics.
In one word his impact will be massive.
Zlatan introduced himself to the Galaxy in the most Zlatan way possible. He took out an entire page in the Los Angeles Times not to say thank you but "Los Angeles, you're welcome." Few players in the world are as cocky and confident as Zlatan. Even fewer can back up their talk in the manner he always has. Ibra is an attacker known all over the world. When past his prime he was still on pace for a 30-goal season with United before his injury, He nearly reached 50 featuring for PSG in his last season at the Parc des Princes.
That kind of scoring may not be attainable in MLS where a full season is only 34 games. The single-season mark, shared by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski, and Bradley Wright-Phillips, is 27. Nevertheless Zlatan is an automatic Golden Boot contender.
Nor is he joining a bad team. The Galaxy finished dead last in the Western Conference last season but retooled immediately. They have an impressive squad. Gio dos Santos leads the way, but the team also boasts brother Jonathan, Romain Alessandrini, Ashley Cole, and Ola Kamara. Zlatan pushes their quality to the league's upper echelon. Even though LAFC are flying high early in their inaugural season, Galaxy are now the must-watch side.
Merchandising and ticket sales will rise. Who doesn't want to see Zlatan light it up? There will be a rush on his jersey just as there was for Beckham and dos Santos. For all his bravado on and off the pitch, Ibra is also a team player. His presence will elevate the brand on and off the pitch.
The only concern is injury. Can he recover from the knee problem that has twice set him back at United? It is the only thing that will stop him. That said, Ibra is also has a calculating mind. He will tell you himself that he will never take on a challenge he cannot meet. He is in LA because he is ready to play again. Still, you get the feeling he will make an impact on the league even if fate turns against him. His personality is that big.