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Zlatan Ibrahimović: future with LA Galaxy in question as AC Milan speculation grows

Los Angeles Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, of Sweden, celebrates his goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles FC Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic will stay or leave is the LA Galaxy’s most pressing offseason question.

Speculation around the Swedish icon’s future has amplified in the last week, with reports out of Italy saying AC Milan is inching closer to reuniting with the 37-year-old striker. Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Tuesday that Ibrahimovic agreed to return to AC Milan on a six-month contract with a one-year extension option. He’s reportedly awaiting an update on negotiations between his agent, Mino Raiola, and the Rossoneri.

ESPN FC later reported a Galaxy spokesperson said “via text message that the reports were not true.”

The Galaxy don’t appear to be in any rush to see the 37-year-old go. Technical director Jovan Kirovski said Monday he’s working to ensure Ibrahimovic stays in Major League Soccer next season and also pointed out the player in under contract for another season.

“Ibrahimovic is a fantastic player both for us and for the whole of MLS,” Kirovski told Sky Sport Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio. “He’s the best player to have come to the American league. He’s a killer, he always wants to win and score. …We want him to be happy in our team and we are working to ensure that he can continue playing for the Galaxy.

“He’s a special player, unique for us. To score so many goals and provide so many assists at his age, after the injury at Manchester United, is incredible. There are many excellent players, but no one is like him.”

Kirovski and his colleagues would be hard-pressed to find someone to replace Ibrahimovic. While the Galaxy have shown a knack for signing star players – David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos, to name a few – there’s no denying the 22 goals and 10 assistant Ibrahimovic recorded in 27 appearances with the Galaxy would be tough to replace.

However, Kirovski may have little say in the matter, especially if Milan offers a sizeable transfer fee.

Without Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy’s core of forwards would still include Ola Kamara, who scored 14 goals last season, and depth pieces Bradford Jamieson IV and Ariel Lassiter. Meanwhile, dos Santos and his brother Jonathan are listed as midfielders but are both dangerous overall in the attack.

In short, the Galaxy would have to purchase a new striker should Ibrahimovic leave, though there’s almost no one who could match the Swede’s magnanimous persona on and off the field.  Replacing his offensive production would be an even trickier task.

If Ibrahimovic returned to AC Milan, it would be his third stint with the storied club during his 17-year career. He went on loan to the San Siro outfit from Barcelona in 2010 before moving there permanently in 2011. Ibrahimovic, who also played at Juventus (2004-2006) and at Inter Milan (2006-2009), has scored 122 goals in Serie A. After leaving AC Milan in 2012, Ibrahimovic played for Paris Saint-Germain (2012-16) and Manchester United (2016-18) before signing with the LA Galaxy on March 23.

Earlier this month, Ibrahimovic did say he would return to the Galaxy — but only if they meet his demands. 

“I want to be able to challenge for the trophy,” he told the LA Times. “I’m not here for vacation. I’m here for the challenge. I want to feel I have a chance to be the best in MLS. My team, not me.

“The club knows all my wishes, all my demands. It’s up to them what they want.”

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