It was a script that could have been penned by a Hollywood screenwriter. LA Galaxy were 2-3 down to their local rivals Los Angeles FC, and turned to new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come off the bench. Always a man for the grand gesture, Zlatan produced an Oscar-winning cameo to first level the game with a spectacular volley from outside the box before nodding in a late winner.
Lookout USA, Zlatan has arrived!
Whatever way you look at it, this was a remarkable debut in what will likely be his final swansong. Admittedly, the fanfare surrounding the big Swede’s move to the City of Angels can partly be attributed to the man himself. Indeed, Zlatan — who has never been a stranger to telling the world about how great he is — bought a page in the Los Angeles Times which simply said ‘Dear Los Angeles. You’re welcome’.
— ONSIDEVIEW.COM (@theonsideview) March 31, 2018
Love him or hate him, Ibra oozes star quality and is made for LA. After his travails throughout this season in England, moving to the MLS has been a smart move and is one that will allow him to pen one more chapter in a memorable football career. For his critics, the move perhaps points to his decline, as top players only ever seem to move to the MLS when they are past their best. Indeed, Ibra’s Manchester United career was cruelly derailed by injury and his appearances this season perhaps show that he is not the player he once was, failing to compete in the frenzied fury of the Premier League.
If this is to be his last hurrah, however, what can we say about his time at the top?
How good was he?
I’ve got to admit that I am a fan of the big man. In a world of dull but worthy professional footballers, who speak in clichés and go to bed early, Ibra is a charismatic contrarian, who is larger than life and never fails to produce a quotable sound bite.
Here are the facts:
Ibrahimovic signed a contract with Malmo in 1996 and earned a senior role in the side in 1999. However, the season that Ibra made his senior team debut Malmo were relegated, but were promoted the following season.
Ibrahimovic played for Dutch giants Ajax where he won 3 Eredivisie titles, a KNVB Cup and the Johan Cruyff Shield. In 2004, his goal against NAC Breda was eventually voted ‘Goal of the year’ by Eurosport viewers.
In Italy, Ibrahimovic played for the big three: Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan. At Inter he won 3 Serie A titles and the Italian Supercup, while at Milan he won a Serie A and Italian Supercup. He won the Capocannoniere with both Inter and AC Milan, and has also been inducted to Milan’s hall of fame. He played in the UEFA Champions League with these 3 sides as well.
Scored in his first five league games and won La Liga, but ultimately his Barcelona career was a low point. In his autobiography, he claimed that he was frozen out by Guardiola and that at the time, Barcelona’s style of play didn’t play to his strengths.
After Milan, Ibra joined Qatar owned Paris Saint Germain, where he enjoyed success, helping the Parisians to countless Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophee des Champions titles. Until this season, he also became PSG’s highest goalscorer in history with 156 goals (Edinson Cavani has since broken it), and was top scorer in Ligue 1 for 3 consecutive seasons.
In the wake of his success in France, he allegedly declared that the Eiffel Tower should be replaced with a statue of himself.
While Ibra was in the twilight of his career when he left PSG, he did however help Manchester United win the League Cup and Europa League. In 2018, his appearances were restricted following a career threatening knee injury. As we know, he was released by the club by mutual consent.
For United fans, there was an echo of Cantona in the man – the arrogance of genius – and many will be sad to see him go. Like another great Swede Henrik Larson, he undoubtedly came too late to the Premiership. Imagine Zlatan at Old Trafford in his pomp. Now, that would have been a sight to see!
Alas, lest us forget his four goals against England, the fourth which was a sublime overhead kick and surely one of the best ever international goals.
What made Zlatan him such a special player?
For a big man, Zlatan has a fabulous all-around game. He has a great first touch, two good feet, technique and skill, is able to link play and dominate aerial duels. He also has presence in the box and an aura that makes defenders nervous.
He also has the ability to turn up in big games. He has scored in Der Klassiker (Netherlands), Derby della Madonnina, Derby D’Italia, El Clasico, Derbi barceloni, Le Classique, North West Derby, the Manchester Derby and now an MLS derby!
Over his career, Ibra has played in 821 games and scored 472 goals, which is 3rd in the all-time list behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. These numbers are clear evidence that Zlatan was and still is a world-class performer, and has every right to be talked about as one of the greats of the modern era.
Europe’s loss is LA’s gain. In the words of Ibrahimovic himself, he arrived “like a king and left as a legend.”
Editorial credit: kivnl / Shutterstock.com