Zlatan Ibrahimovic True to His Brand in What May Have Been His Final MLS Act

With the LA Galaxy out of the playoffs and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's contract set to expire, it's possible that The Lion has roared in MLS for his last time.
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If that was indeed Zlatan Ibrahimovic's final act in MLS, it was a loaded one, and one that stayed true to his outlandish brand.

The LA Galaxy are out of the playoffs, 5-3 losers to LAFC in another memorable installment of El Trafico. Ibrahimovic wasn't his usual dominant self against LAFC, against whom he tallied nine goals in six games, but he did manage a goal and an assist and had another would-be goal taken off the board. With his contract set to expire at the end of this year and speculation swirling about what he'll do in 2020, it's quite possible that The Lion has roared for the last time in MLS, that the Ferrari has taken its last lap.

It wasn't without revving the engine one final time, though. 

There was his crotch-grab as he walked to the player's tunnel, as he appeared to respond to a heckling LAFC fan in the stands.

There was his questioning of LAFC's second goal, for which Brian Rodriguez appeared to be offside in the build-up before providing the assist for Carlos Vela's tap-in.

"The referee didn't know that? What was he doing upstairs, drinking coffee with Magic Johnson?" Ibrahimovic said, referring to one of LAFC's many celebrity co-owners. "If he is drinking coffee with Magic Johnson, it is hard to play the game, because he has to be in control. He said he needed a signal from the VAR person, but what was he doing? I don't want to be a loser complaining about the ref, because it is not on my level."

Then there was what may have been his mic drop when posed with the inevitable question over whether it was his final game in MLS.

"[If I stay], then MLS is good, because the whole world will watch it. If I don't stay, nobody will remember what MLS is," he told reporters.

That's overstating it, but then, that's what Zlatan does. No other player in MLS, and perhaps the world, can get away with lighting a match and firing it on his own team and league like he can. Just two months ago, he called Argentine signing Cristian Pavon too good for the league. Last month he claimed he was the greatest player in league history, when the truth is, he might not be on the Galaxy's Mount Rushmore when taking longevity and trophies into account. He gets away with it, though, because he performs.

His two years in MLS have been filled with goals (53 in 58 games in the regular season and playoffs combined), highlight-reel moments (who could forget his debut vs. LAFC, or his karate-kick goal vs. Toronto?) and an array of soundbites to satiate the fans, media and social media users alike. It's not his fault that the Galaxy couldn't stop leaking goals for two years, though, at 38, he's not much help in terms of tracking back, either.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored 53 goals in 58 games with the LA Galaxy.

Considering all that, it would be harsh to call his last two years a disappointment, but the Galaxy posting a single playoff win and no trophies in that time goes against everything for which he stands, too. He's criticized the MLS playoffs for determining its champion, yet featured for a team whose regular seasons with him in tow wouldn't have merited any accolades in a single-table, no-playoff league.

There have always been two sides to the Zlatan coin in MLS. It's a better league with him and could use the clout and cachet that he brings to the table. It also doesn't need its highest-paid and most world-renowned player to be approaching 40 while regularly making disparaging comments, regardless of the truth some of them may contain.

All that being said, the Zlatan experience in MLS has been largely as advertised. You either love it and are amused by it, or you're sick of it. It started with a full-page newspaper ad that simply stated "Dear Los Angeles, you're welcome." It may have ended with the same level of brazenness, albeit in a far less respectful manner.

In a city full of stars, egos and personalities, Ibrahimovic has embodied all of it and has been a box office success with his actions over the last two years. He's given MLS everything it could have wanted, while simultaneously bashing its faults. He berated, and he dazzled. He's never been one to speak or act cautiously. He's remained highly on brand until–what appears to be–the very end.