The L.A. Galaxy have reached agreement on a contract with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, successfully ending the club’s three-year effort to bring the aging Swedish superstar to Major League Soccer.
Ibrahimovic was released from his deal with England’s Manchester United on Thursday, about three months before it was to expire, and will formally be introduced as a member of the Galaxy by the weekend. According to Sports llustrated’s Grant Wahl, Ibrahimovic will sign a two-year deal worth $3 million, funded in large part with targeted allocation money from the league. Although that would make him the fourth-best-paid player on the Galaxy that contract represents a huge drop from Ibrahimovic’s current deal with Manchester United, which reportedly pays him more than $250,000 a week.
Before Ibrahimovic can be added to the roster, however, the team must free up an international spot. Under league rules, each MLS team gets eight international roster spots and the Galaxy’s eight slots are full, although the team can trade for another one.
The acquisition of the colorful Ibrahimovic, once considered, alongside Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, to be one of the top three players in the world, continues a Galaxy’s tradition of signing big-name European stars. Before Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard have all worn the Galaxy jersey while former Chelsea star Ashley Cole is the team’s current captain.
But at the same time the deal marks a curious change in direction since it comes just 16 months after the team let Keane and Gerrard go, cutting salary and filling the roster with players promoted from the team’s academy and reserve team.
It is unclear when Ibrahimovic, whose performances on the field are often overshadowed by his bravado and braggadocio off it, will join the Galaxy.
Ibrahimovic, whose brilliant 2016-17 season ended early with a knee injury, has played in just five games, scoring once, in all competitions this season. His last appearance came the day after Christmas when he played the first half of a 2-2 draw with Burnley.
The Galaxy were first linked publicly to Ibrahimovic three years ago when the player’s contract with French club Paris Saint-Germain expired. It’s unlikely those conversations ever became serious, however, since Manchester United offered him a one-year contract worth a reported $27 million.
Ibrahimovic responded with a team-high 28 goals in 41 games in all competition before sustaining meniscus and cruciate ligament damage in his right knee during a Europa League game last April. The Galaxy had been pursuing the player at the time, with one team official saying the club had offered what he called the most lucrative contract in MLS history.
That record currently belongs to Orlando City, which paid Brazilian midfielder Kaka $7.167 million in each of his three seasons in the league.
Ibrahimovic, however, spurned the Galaxy again, re-signing with Manchester United even though the team knew he would miss the first three months of the season while recovering from his knee injury.
Before coming to England, Ibrahimovic had won league titles everywhere he played, capturing 11 championships combined in Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and France. This spring he had hoped to add a UEFA Champions League crown — the one major club title he lacks — to his trophy case but this month Manchester United was eliminated from the competition in the quarterfinals.
Although he retired from international competition two years ago, Ibrahimovic remains the leading scorer in Swedish national team history with 62 goals in 116 caps. He has 421 goals in 730 games in club competition.
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11