MLS has gotten away from spending big to lure aging stars from Europe and instead focused more on younger, rising talent. But would Zlatan Ibrahimovic be the ultimate exception to the rule?

By Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
January 30, 2018

The rumors and reports have fired up again, and it appears that the LA Galaxy are making yet another push to lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Major League Soccer.

Ibrahimovic was potentially going to be bound for Los Angeles over the summer, but a serious knee injury in April prevented that from taking place. Instead, he re-signed with Manchester United and returned to action late last year, but a minor injury setback and strong competition in the United attack have limited his minutes. Jose Mourinho claimed Monday that he wouldn't stand in the way if Ibra were to want to move to MLS, seemingly clearing the way for the parties to make a deal. 

Ibrahimovic has been linked to MLS for years, and two years ago he told that Thierry Henry advised him that he would need patience when adapting the league, should he arrive. His past relationship with David Beckham has also led to a natural link to his Miami franchise, though by the time that gets off the ground at this point, Zlatan will be 38.

MLS has gotten away from spending big to lure aging stars from Europe and instead focused more on younger, rising talent from South America. But would Ibrahimovic, who is a year removed from a 28-goal season and provides non-stop entertainment value, be the ultimate exception to the rule? We discuss Zlatan's potential future in America on the latest Planet Fútbol Podcast (beginning at the 9:04 mark), which you can listen to in full below.

To subscribe to the podcast and download past episodes, you can visit our iTunes page. This segment was edited only for clarity and length.

GW: I don't want to see 30-year-old, pretty much over-the-hill European stars coming to join [David Beckham's project in] Miami. I don't want to see that happen very often in MLS, period, and here we are now with reports, first Taylor Twellman had it on Sunday night, that the LA Galaxy is getting close to signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He's 36 years old, hasn't played much this year, coming off a bad, bad knee injury and wouldn't even be a Designated Player. He would be a TAM (targeted allocation money) signing. Zlatan to L.A., do you like the sound of that, or is it Steven Gerrard Part Two?

BS: Wouldn't you have loved to have been in the room when [Galaxy president] Chris Klein was trying to explain to Zlatan that TAM actually was bigger than DP? And the linguistic gymnastics required to convince Zlatan that TAM actually was for lions like him?

Look, man, there's exceptions to every rule right? And guys like Gerrard and Pirlo and some other guys and maybe came in with massive names and massive resumes and didn't have the impact we hoped, they also weren't transcendent cultural figures like Zlatan is, so I'm going to make an exception for the guy. I agree with you, I think most people agree that we don't want to see this league become a beach vacation for aging European stars, but it's Zlatan, man! Let the guy come over for a season, and if he's not committed and it doesn't work out on the field, the Galaxy will find a Band-Aid and figure it out, or they'll pay a price for it. But he's fun, he's talented, he's transcendent and why not give it a shot, especially when you've got a team down the road now (LAFC) that's making a lot of noise and that's looking to undo some of the 22 years of traction you've laid in that market. 

I think it's great, I'm looking forward to it. The whole point is are you going to watch, are you going to pay attention, are you going to follow it? And if Zlatan's in the league, you're going to follow it. You're going to want to see how he did, you're going to want to hear what he has to say. The postgame interviews in the locker room are going to be epic. So I'm looking forward to it, and either it works out or it doesn't, and it's going to be a story either way.

GW: First off, I love Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a media member, and I can't wait for him if he does come.

I interviewed him once about his autobiography, which is one of the more entertaining autobiographies ever, he basically goes off on everybody, including Pep Guardiola, plenty of others. ... If you open fire on all these people like Pep Guardiola in your book you basically have to answer questions about it when someone interviews you about your book. So I never met Zlatan before, and suddenly I'm asking him these totally charged questions based on the book I had just read. The one downer, it's a pretty big one, it came out eventually that the author of the book–it was an as-told-to book–totally made stuff that isn't even true and that Zlatan eventually approved for some reason and then it was presented as factual which is really lame. But, that said. I love Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

I would not like this move at all if it were as a Designated Player, but if it's TAM, you can kind of roll the dice. If the Galaxy really isn't spending that much money on it, then why not? It's pretty low risk for the Galaxy, he's not taking up a DP slot, and the upside, if he can get it going again–or even get it going to half of what he was before–would be pretty good.

BS: They've made some other moves in the midfield and up front. They've got Jonathan Dos Santos, they got Ola Kamara from Columbus, Sebastian Lletget will be sort of like an addition because he essentially missed all of last year with an injury, so I think they were on a decent trajectory before this. So if they're not spending a fortune ... it's not a massive, massive outlay that could sort of cripple the season. I'm all for it. And again, this is very Zlatan. The man has transcended into historical fiction already, and he's still playing. This is why he has to be here and like I said, whatever happens, whatever circus ensues by him being here will be worth it. And the nice thing is is that the league is at a point where if it's the wrong move, that's just going to hurt the Galaxy, it's not going to hurt the whole league. Other teams aren't going to suffer, and that's how it should be. Teams should ante up and benefit if the move is right and pay the price if the move is wrong, and that's what will happen.

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