London (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic has never shied away from the spotlight, so it is fitting that the outspoken Swede should choose Hollywood as the likely final chapter of a glittering career.
Ibrahimovic, 36, became the latest in a long line of ageing stars to swap the heights of European football by leaving Manchester United for LA Galaxy on Friday.
His arrival in Los Angeles was announced with stereotypical swagger as a full-page advert in the LA Times read simply: “Dear Los Angeles, You’re welcome.”
The giant 6ft 4ins tall (1.95m) striker has an ego to match his towering physique, but has backed up his boasts by collecting an incredible 31 winners’ medals in spells with Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and United.
That total doesn’t even include two Serie A titles won on the field with Juventus but subsequently stripped for the Italian giants role in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.
One major club trophy did elude him, though, as despite racking up league titles in four different countries, a move to America in the twilight of his career appears to end any ambition Ibrahimovic had to win the Champions League.
“People that know me know that I play in many clubs,” Ibrahimovic said last season. “Wherever I went I won, so I am like Indiana Jones.”
American fans should get used to his larger-than-life ‘Zlatan’ persona and provocative soundbites.
However, whether the Galaxy will get the player that was once one of the most feared strikers in the world remains to be seen.
– Human after all –
Ibrahimovic silenced any doubters over his ability to make the grade in England’s Premier League even at the ripe old age of 35 last season, scoring 28 goals in 46 appearances to help United win the Community Shield, League Cup and Europa League.
Yet, his season and ultimately his United career was brought to a premature end by cruciate ligament damage suffered in April.
In typical self-confident style, Ibrahimovic bragged about his powers of recovery when he returned to action in November.
“I told you, lions don’t recover like humans. That I have now proved, rather than just saying it,” he told MUTV.
Yet, such a serious injury at an advanced age proved even Ibrahimovic is human as he never re-established himself as a regular in the United side again.
Only two of his seven appearances this season were from the start, the last of which came on December 26 when he was hauled off at half-time with United trailing 2-0 at home to Burnley.
Ibrahimovic, though, was never likely to fade into retirement quietly.
Los Angeles should give him the stage he craves and the chance to thrive for a few more years at a less demanding technical level, even if he has had to swallow his pride a little by taking a huge pay cut from his reported £180,000 a week ($253,000) salary at United to earn $1.5 million a year in the States.
“If Ibrahimovic can’t make Los Angeles care about the Galaxy, there isn’t a player who can,” wrote Dylan Hernandez in the LA Times under the headline “He’s hard to ignore”.
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