Where Zlatan Ibrahimović goes, Zlatan Ibrahimović dominates. He has made his mark all over Europe and it was no different in England last season, becoming the face of José Mourinho’s Manchester United side.
Even a season-ending knee injury did not look to have stopped the iconic Swede who put pen-to-paper on a new deal at Old Trafford in the autumn. However, after just 103 minutes of Premier League action and further injury issues this season, Ibrahimović faces a juncture in the trajectory of his career.
His contract at Old Trafford expires at the end of the season, with clubs now free to speak to the 36-year-old about his next move and the suggestion is, with Romelu Lukaku now firmly first choice up front, the former Internazionale and Juventus striker could move to Major League Soccer to join LA Galaxy.
That, according to Mourinho, is news to Manchester United. “He told me nothing about it,” the Portuguese told ESPN. ” The first time I read something about this is was from you, I read from somewhere or saw on some TV channel, he never mentioned that to me so I don't know.
“Zlatan is in last year of his contract, if, if, if – and he said nothing to it to me – but if, if, if that is true and Zlatan wants a future in another club in another country we are here to help and create conditions to help, not to make his life difficult.
“But the last thing Zlatan told me was he wants to recover totally and help the team.”
But Ibrahimović has more than one option. A player of his stature and quality always has
suitors and at this stage of his career, having conquered essentially every league and country in the European game different destinations have opened up to him. Perhaps the most compelling option is the one presented to him by Major League Soccer.
Ibrahimović has long been linked with a move to the North American top flight, with the LA Galaxy reportedly making an offer to the Swedish striker following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent two summers ago. It’s claimed the Swede narrowed his choices down to the Californian club and United, eventually opting for a stint in the Premier League.
Few could argue that he didn’t make the right decision, scoring 28 goals for the Red Devils during the 2016/17 season season, proving that even in the twilight of his career he was good enough to cut it in the most competitive league in world football. But the choice he faces now is a more difficult one.
The LA Galaxy have reportedly returned for Ibrahimović, making a gigantic offer to the striker that would see him become the highest paid player in the history of MLS should he accept.
Having lost Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard in quick succession, the Californian club is keen to find a new figurehead. They couldn’t find anybody better for that role than the larger-than-life 36-year-old, a player who has made an entire career from being a figurehead.
By capturing Ibrahimović, the LA Galaxy would also be stealing a march on their soon-to-be rivals Los Angeles FC, who are also stretching to the top tier of the transfer market in the hope of making a real impact upon their entry into the league. That could explain why the Galaxy have accelerated their pursuit of the former Barcelona striker.
While MLS’s overtures were previously easy for Ibrahimović to resist, now that might not be the case. He could leave United a cult hero having aided their post-Sir Alex Ferguson recovery more than any other player, boosting his legend in the European game before joining the LA Galaxy to dominate over there as well. It’s a tempting proposition.
Ibrahimović may profess himself to be some sort of footballing superhero, but the effects of ageing have had an impact on his powers. He was never expected to lead the line for Manchester United with any regularity this season – not once Mourinho had dropped £75million on Lukaku – but he has made just one Premier League start and a total of seven outings in all competitions.
The January arrival of Alexis Sánchez was not a response to the Malmö native's waning powers. But the Chilean – as well as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – means United are covered in the event of injury to Lukaku.
By moving to MLS he could give himself the perfect jumping off point, making the seamless transition from dominant European superstar to dominant North American superstar.