Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the perpetually transferring soccer star with more league titles than absurd one-liners (it’s close), is moving yet again to a new team and league.
After stints in Italy, Spain, France and England, the 36-year-old Ibrahimovic is joining MLS to play for the LA Galaxy. Ibrahimovic’s move to MLS follows two seasons in England’s Premier League, where he scored 29 goals in 53 appearances for Manchester United.
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported that Ibrahimovic signed a two-year, $3 million deal and could make his debut on March 31 against LAFC.
Ibrahimovic announced the move with a bit more, um, flair.
Ibrahimovic then set his sights on his new Los Angeles audience, and what better way to reach said audience in 2018 than with a full-page print ad in the Los Angeles Times? The ad contained all of five words: “Dear Los Angeles,” it began. “You’re welcome,” it ended.
At this point you probably have a few questions, especially if this is your first encounter with the man who calls himself a lion.
What’s the deal with that photo? Is he arm-wrestling the devil?
If you follow the 6-foot-5 goal scorer on social media (and honestly, why wouldn’t you?) you might recognize this image, as Ibrahimovic tweeted it last year when he re-signed with Manchester United. And yes, it appears he is, in fact, arm-wrestling the devil.
Update: The original image has previous incarnations, including being used for a custom car paint job. The image was also used in a Russian ad posted by the Facebook group Army of Jesus during the 2016 presidential campaign, which quoted the devil saying, “IF I WIN CLINTON WINS.”
Okay, why is he arm-wrestling the devil?
Short answer: because he’s Zlatan. This is the same guy who has continually referred to himself as “God,” so it’s pretty on-brand for him. Manchester United’s nickname is the Red Devils, so you could make a case that there is some “deal with the devil” symbolism at play here, but really it’s anyone’s guess.
Weird. Who is the closest American athlete equivalent to him?
Personality-wise, he’s a combination of peak Terrell Owens self-belief with a dash of Kobe Bryant’s lip-sneering menace and your average baseball player’s approach to cardio. At the same time, it’s hard to find a comparable talent who has changed teams as often as Ibrahimovic. Consider this: No one else has played in the Champions League for seven different teams. And this includes some of the best teams in the world: Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, to name a few.
So how much does he have left?
Well, he’s 36 and coming off a knee injury last year that limited him to five appearances for Manchester United this season. But before the injury, he was incredibly efficient, scoring 17 goals in 28 appearances last season. Granted, we’re a few years removed from his apex when he routinely scored outrageous goals like this:
Even at 36, he still has a cannon of a right leg and is a menace to defend in set pieces, so he should be the Galaxy’s best goal scorer, even if it’s in limited minutes, as the Galaxy finished last in the Western Conference last season. If the Galaxy can win it all with Ibrahimovic, it will mark the fifth different league in which he’s won a title.
Will we be seeing him in the World Cup?
Ibrahimovic announced his international retirement at Euro 2016 and in typically understated fashion said, “I made the country my country.” However, this month he said, “The door hasn’t been shut,” meaning we may still see him play for Sweden this summer.