- Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the newest member of the LA Galaxy, but the 36-year-old superstar's arrival doesn't come without questions. Here's what we're eager to find out about the Swedish sensation's latest career stop.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is finally headed to Hollywood.
In what's only an appropriate, and likely last stop during a sensational career, the blockbuster hit is coming to the LA Galaxy. He was released from his contract with Manchester United on Thursday, and on Friday was unveiled as the latest big name to wear the Galaxy shirt. Following in the footsteps of fellow European superstars David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, the 36-year-old Ibrahimovic has joined on a TAM-fueled two-year deal worth a total of $3 million, according to SI's Grant Wahl.
At that number, it's easy to see why the Galaxy would pounce on the opportunity to add a player of his stature, and while MLS has taken great strides in targeting young, South American talent on the rise to move away from the signings that gave the league a retirement-home feel, Ibrahimovic certainly would appear to be worth making an exception. But is his signing an undisputable slam dunk?
Here are three pressing questions regarding Ibrahimovic's arrival:
Is he, like, healthy?
Ibrahimovic suffered knee ligament damage last spring and then made a lightning-quick comeback to return to action in the fall. But even lions struggle to immediately find their top form and stay fit after such comebacks. Ibrahimovic last featured on a matchday squad on Dec. 26, suffering an injury setback and being forced to the sideline ever since. That means he could be more than three months removed from his last competitive match by the time the March 31 showdown vs. LAFC–for which Ibrahimovic apparently will be suiting up–comes around.
There will be massive expectations for Ibrahimovic, regardless of the tread on his tires, but if he pushes too much too soon, there's certain backfire potential.
Surely the Galaxy wouldn't make such a financial commitment–even if it is a relative discount–without doing their due diligence on the medical front, but an injury recurrence has to be in the back of the minds of front office executives. Fortunately for the Galaxy, there are only four league matches on artificial turf slated for after Ibrahimovic is expected to start playing.
That he was acquired before the end of the Premier League season gives the Galaxy another few months more of Zlatan than originally was anticipated, but they should use them wisely and make sure their newest asset is ready to be deployed. They learned the hard way with Beckham how rushing a hobbled, aging star to action could play out.
Where does he fit in the Galaxy's attack?
Scoring goals isn't really an issue for the Galaxy, at least on paper.
The addition of Ola Kamara, who scored 34 goals in his first two MLS seasons, to an attacking nucleus that included Romain Alessandrini, Giovani Dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget already gave the Galaxy a formidable group. Incorporating Ibrahimovic clearly strengthens it on paper, but it also means there's another mouth to feed (and one that really likes to eat). This all falls on Sigi Schmid to sort out. Ibrahimovic has played for some legendary managers throughout his career, and ones with big personalities. All due respect to Schmid, a giant of his craft in the United States, but the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti are in a different class. Perhaps Ibrahimovic can get a crash course in all things Sigi from countryman Freddie Ljungberg, who played under the manager for a season and a half with the Seattle Sounders.
In the first two Galaxy games this season, Kamara has operated as a lone striker, with a trio of Ema Boateng, Giovani Dos Santos and one of Lletget/Alessandrini behind him and a central midfield pairing of Jonathan Dos Santos and Perry Kitchen behind them. Kamara previously played in a similar system with Columbus. If Schmid wants to stick with those tactics, then Ibrahimovic would figure to become the target man, but can he really afford to bump the productive Kamara to the bench? It's highly improbable. Kamara is not a natural winger, so a shift to a two-forward approach would be required, and if that's the case, then another domino will have to fall, whether it's dropping a central midfielder or winger or going to a back three.
Having Zlatan in the lineup is a luxury that any team should welcome, but it doesn't come without some managerial maneuvering being necessary. It was the same at Manchester United, where Ibrahimovic's presence in the lineup set off a domino effect in the attack. In pure Ibrahimovic fashion, you don't fit Zlatan into your lineup. You must fit your lineup for Zlatan.
What is Zlatan's motivation?
Ibrahimovic won domestic titles at all but his final stop in Europe, was part of Man United's Europa League-winning side last season and won numerous domestic cups and Golden Boots, but he never won that elusive Champions League crown. So after Man United's Champions League ouster removed that possibility from the equation, even with him not really having a role on the club anymore, is he really going to get up for a run at the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup?
He's a competitor, he's not here solely for a cash grab given his salary will fall outside of the top 10 of MLS earners and he yearns to entertain at every stop, but will his work ethic or motivation to reach his peak be at the same level if the competitive payoff isn't as grand? It would only be natural for it to dip considering the circumstances.
Even with all of these questions, it's still hard to see this transaction as anything else but a win. As much as it is about adding an impact player on the field, signing Ibrahimovic will be a hit at the box office and in the pro shop. With LAFC off to a blazing start across town, the pressure is on the Galaxy to ante up. In welcoming a global icon like Ibrahimovic, they've definitely done their part.