Skip to main content

Insider Notes: Zlatan Turned Down $100 Million Deal in China for MLS, LA Galaxy Move

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have made more money outside of MLS upon leaving Manchester United. A lot more money.

How much money did Zlatan Ibrahimovic turn down to sign with the LA Galaxy instead of going to China? A whopping $97 million, I’m told.

According to Jovan Kirovski, the LA Galaxy technical director who did the most work to sign Ibrahimovic, the big Swede had a multiyear offer from China even after his knee injury that would have paid him $100 million total. Instead Ibra chose the Galaxy, which can only pay him $3 million over two years since he’s a TAM player on a team whose Designated Player slots are all filled.

Kirovski said the hardest part of the deal was explaining to Ibra’s superagent, Mino Raiola, why he could only pay Ibra $1.5 million a year. Raiola’s first response was: “Are you serious?” But Ibra in the end decided he didn’t need the money at this stage of his career. Kirovski swears, by the way, that there aren’t any side deals from Galaxy sponsors to sweeten the pot for Zlatan.

Kirovski said he first made contact with Ibra while the player was still with PSG, and in total he met with Zlatan a half-dozen times in Europe (in Paris and Manchester) and on additional occasions in Los Angeles to build a relationship. Four months ago, Kirovski said, Ibrahimovic told him the Galaxy deal was going to happen.

“But until it’s signed, anything can happen,” Kirovski said. “When he signed officially was two weeks ago. Then you can breathe again.”

Manchester United’s exit from the Champions League against Sevilla did help allow Ibra to be released earlier to join the Galaxy, Kirovski said.

And Kirovski’s feelings on Saturday watching Ibrahimovic score twice in his belief-defying debut?

“I’m still numb,” Kirovski said. “Especially for us. With LAFC coming, and being down 3-0, it’s like: What? It was an emotional roller coaster. This was special.

SI Recommends

“He shows up and walks the walk. It’s incredible.”

Image placeholder title

Watch Grant Wahl and Luis Miguel Echegaray provide expert soccer analysis every week on SI TV's Planet Fútbol show.

SI TV on Amazon channels
Image placeholder title

Elsewhere in the soccer world:

Real Madrid persists in pursuit of Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski is in terrific form, and a high-ranking Real Madrid source says the Polish forward is their top target to replace Karim Benzema at center forward. However, Bayern director Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said last week that he would bet anything that Lewandowski, who has three years left on his deal, will be in Munich next season. The Real Madrid source did say that once Bayern gets something in their heads, they’re very difficult to budge, but Madrid will try.

For fans of English soccer, meanwhile, the Real Madrid source added something else: That star players Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino are no longer on Real Madrid’s list of targets for the summer.