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NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira calls former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimović a ‘lovely character’

New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira was teammates with superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who now plays for the L.A. Galaxy in MLS. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)

Patrick Vieira knows Zlatan Ibrahimović.

They played together with Juventus and prattled as neighbors in Milan while winning titles at Inter. Ibra signed his Manchester United contract after a morning phone chat with Vieira and has called the current New York City FC manager a great influence and his favorite teammate.

“He wanted to destroy everybody, but not destroy in a negative way – in a positive way,” Ibra once told Express. “Like how you train is how you play, and I watched him and I learned a lot. Every training session he was like a monster.”

Vieira watched Ibra’s spectacular MLS debut from his hotel room in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday ahead of New York City’s evening match against the Earthquakes.

The Swede backed up his pre-match bravado with two late goals to rally the LA Galaxy past LAFC, 4-3.

“My goal is to conquer MLS,” Ibra said.

“I think he explained it best in his press conference that it’s not about arrogance but about confidence,” Vieira said. “When you look at all the teams he has played for and all the coaches he has played for; he always delivers always scoring goals. He gave the LA fans what they expected. They wanted Zlatan and he gave them Zlatan.”

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)

Vieira and Ibra logged 5,720 minutes in 90 matches as teammates and mutually won three scudetto’s at Inter Milan. Having spent time both on and off the field with Ibra, Vieira is assured that he will continue to have a positive impact on the Galaxy.

“He’s a really lovely character,” Vieira said. “He’s a team player and tries to put a really good atmosphere in the dressing room. Of course he’s a strong character but he’s a nice person. The LA players, they will love him.”

Vieira will not have the opportunity to formulate a game plan to defend Ibra unless the Galaxy and New York City meet up for the MLS Cup. In the pre-Ibra era, City topped the Galaxy, 2-1 on March 11 at Yankee Stadium.

Vieira suggested that leaves him more disappointed than relieved.

“You always want to play against this type of player,” Vieira said. “I’m sure my players would love to play against him.  This is what you want as a player. Play against the best and prove yourself.”

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