Zlatan Ibrahimovic is slated to make his MLS debut, but he has barely played in the last year as he bounces back from a major knee injury. The level of his on-field impact in MLS depends on its status.

By Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
March 30, 2018

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could make his MLS debut on Saturday, when the LA Galaxy face expansion LAFC on Saturday at StubHub Center. His arrival has caught plenty of attention, both in the USA and abroad, and all eyes will be on the Swedish legend to see if he can fulfill the lofty expectations that come with his signing.

Even though he's signed at a relative discount ($3 million total for two years, fueled by Targeted Allocation Money), with LAFC hitting on all cylinders to start life in MLS and other teams hitting big on winter signings, the pressure is on for Ibrahimovic to perform at a high level–and soon. But with him being inactive for months after suffering an injury setback with Manchester United following his recovery from a torn ACL, there's plenty of curiosity regarding how impactful he can be from the start.

We discuss Ibrahimovic's arrival in this week's Planet Fútbol Podcast. You can listen to the full discussion on this week's podcast in the console below, with the section about Zlatan beginning at the 17:42 mark. You can subscribe to and download the podcast at iTunes here.

GRANT WAHL: Zlatan Ibrahimović, since our last podcast together, has signed with the LA Galaxy and will be joining the team soon here—perhaps even time for the LA-LAFC game, which is this Saturday on big Fox at 3 pm Eastern. Ibrahimović is coming on a TAM deal, not a Designated Player deal. His knee may or may not be in good shape. We don’t know. How are you feeling about it?

BRIAN STRAUS: It depends on his knee. I know what happens in your mid 30s—what happens to your body. You don’t recover like you did. Stuff hurts in ways it didn’t before. You just don’t have the same explosiveness and elasticity. It can go quickly. He’s got a wonderful personality. He’s fun. He’s quotable. He’s got that whole lion cliche thing going on. Everyone loves that.

So, I credit the Galaxy. I don’t know what kind of marketing deals have been arranged, or what kind of compensation is happening outside the MLS structure. But, good for them for not blowing the bank on a guy who’s in his mid-to-late 30s and is coming off a serious injury. So, we’ll see.

GW: I guess here’s my question. The promotional aspect was pretty over the top, as you might expect—buying a full page ad in the L.A. Times to announce Ibrahimović’s arrival. There’s a billboard with Ibrahimović out in L.A. right now, in fact multiple billboards. I guess my question is, is it possible that they would not have done this much promotion if the Galaxy and Ibrahimović were really concerned about his knee?

BS: That’s a good question. I don’t know. Maybe there was some pressure there to make a splash, you know, with LAFC coming in and the start that they’ve had. They’ve become a really intriguing team that’s playing good soccer, and maybe the Galaxy felt some pressure to take back some of the headlines and some of the conversation. It’s a good question.

The benefit of the doubt in the Galaxy has eroded a little bit. Steven Gerrard didn’t work out. The jury is very much out on Gio dos Santos. … Not everything they’ve touched has turned to gold at this point. So, maybe you’d think they’d be a little cautious considering that. But at the same time, they’ve got this noisy neighbor now to deal with.

It’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing what the atmosphere is on Saturday, regardless. It’s the first of what hopefully becomes a big rivalry between these two clubs, and that can only really happen authentically over time. But it’ll be a fun thing to see, and to see how the guys react to each other and respond, and what the atmosphere is like. It’ll be cool.

GW: We had Bob Bradley on the podcast earlier this week and we talked a little bit about the LA-LAFC game. If you haven’t listen to this … Bob is incapable of giving a bland interview at this point. … I think for Bradley, it would be huge to get yet another win against the Galaxy on the road, in a sold out stadium, on national television.

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