Really, he is all of the above.
And for the first time, the Ibra Show rolls into Washington for a Sunday night curtain raiser against D.C. United and former Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney.
Ibrahimovic and Rooney landed in MLS in 2018, the unrestrained Swede four months before the reserved Englishman. Rooney, 33, already has decided to depart after this season, cutting short a long-term contract to play and coach at home starting in January. Ibrahimovic, 37, might close his MLS account, too; his contract is up in December, and he has grown weary of the league’s officiating and playoff structure.
For the time being, though, he will continue using the United States as his playground. He scores goals and late-night talk-show appearances, gets under the skin — and, once, around the neck — of opponents and stirs things up with crosstown rival Los Angeles FC.
All along, he is aiming to extend the Galaxy’s record of MLS Cup titles to six after missing the 2018 playoffs.
“A lot of great moments,” Ibrahimovic said in a recent interview at All-Star Game festivities in Orlando. “I’ve done a lot of good stuff so far. The way I represent the game, the way I like to play the game, people enjoy it. They see a different game.”
He is unique in many ways. First and foremost, Ibrahimovic is a goal scorer: He has 38 in 45 matches over less than two full seasons, including 16 in 18 appearances this year.
The spellbinding quality of the goals stands out as well. Three weeks ago, he began a hat trick against LAFC by keeping the ball airborne between two defenders before pumping a top-of-the-box blast into the net.
Ibrahimovic — 6-foot-5, strong, agile and fearless — carries a presence like no one else in the league.
“You can talk about limiting service to him, staying close to him, being physical with him — and sometimes even that is not enough,” United Coach Ben Olsen said. “He is a special player, and he can hurt you in a whole host of ways. Look, he knows how to score goals.”
It’s hard not to look. It’s also hard not to listen. He snaps one-liners with the ferocity of his thunderous shots.
A reporter in Los Angeles recently asked him whether authorities would allow him into Area 51, the highly classified Air Force facility in Nevada.
“I have my own Area 51,” he replied.
On the occasion of Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” he was asked about a tussle with a shark: “I would eat him alive.”
Upon his MLS arrival in March 2018, he tweeted, “Los Angeles, welcome to Zlatan.”
His rapport with other famous league imports is a hoot. At the all-star festivities, Ibrahimovic said to the hair-challenged Rooney, who was wearing a baseball cap, “Wazza, you burn your forehead?”
Then, to graying Chicago defender Bastian Schweinsteiger: “You look sharp for 50.”
Does he consider Sunday’s meeting with Rooney a personal rivalry? “Not at this stage and at this age.”
The stagecraft has injected fun into the league and drawn attention beyond MLS’s narrow borders.
“If you don’t know him, it’s all crazy stuff, but seeing it every day, I just say, ‘Oh, that’s Ibra,’ ” said winger Emmanuel Boateng, who was a Galaxy teammate until Tuesday, when he was traded to United. “Before the games he says a lot of stuff and gets a lot of press; those are the games that he plays well. He needs to get the attention on him, and then he will back it up.”
Ibrahimovic’s show is not always well received around the league. This summer, he said by playing in MLS, he is like a “Ferrari among Fiats.” Asked about that comment, he said in the interview: “Many people agree. Some people laugh. It’s fact.”
The antics have turned physical at times. In May, Ibrahimovic was suspended for two matches for grabbing New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson by the throat. Recently, he escaped suspension after elbowing Mohamed El-Munir on the side of the head during an aerial challenge for the ball. The LAFC defender underwent surgery for a fracture and will not return anytime soon. The league’s disciplinary committee did not act, apparently concluding that Ibrahimovic did not cock his arm and was conducing normal movement.
LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye said in an interview: “We’re guys who have been fighting to make a living in this league, and he kind of comes in and does his own stuff. I don’t know if it sits well with all the players, but we try not to let it bother us.”
Ibrahimovic is bothered by the league’s playoff structure, which rewards seven clubs in each of the 12-team conferences. To him, it’s not only too easy to advance, but it softens the desire and urgency to win.
“The system, the pressure here, it is different because you can finish in the top seven and get into the playoffs,” he said. “To me, that is not pressure. From second to seventh, for me, is not good enough. Here, the first seven is good enough. It is a different mentality. I have to get used to it. I do everything to win the games, but here you can lose and we’re still in it.”
In a media event a week later, he repeated his complaint and used an expletive to describe MLS’s format. The foundation of his complaint is consistent with his playing values.
“Anything to win," Boateng said. "That is his competitive nature.”
The competitive juices continue to flow. So do the goals.
“I am still on top,” he said, two months shy of turning 38. “Obviously, I’m not in my prime. If I were in my prime, you would see something else. I am still doing great things. That’s why I am still playing.”
LA Galaxy at D.C. United
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday (7:50 p.m. kickoff).
Where: Audi Field.
TV: Fox Sports 1.
Records: Galaxy 12-10-1, 37 points; United 9-7-9, 36 points.
D.C. probable starters: GK Bill Hamid; D Leonardo Jara, Donovan Pines, Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Lucas Rodriguez; MF Paul Arriola, Felipe Martins, Luciano Acosta, Emmanuel Boateng; F Wayne Rooney.
L.A. probable starters: GK David Bingham; D Rolf Feltscher, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta; MF Joe Corona, Jonathan dos Santos, Favio Alvarez, Uriel Antuna, Sebastian Lletget; F Zlatan Ibrahimovic.