Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ready to return to the field, but this time he’ll be suiting up for the LA Galaxy. He finally arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday night, after years of rumors swirling around about his move to MLS. LA Galaxy fans and international media played a big role in welcoming the Lion to Los Angeles.
Over two hundred fans were driven by bus to an auxiliary terminal at Los Angeles International Airport to greet Ibrahimovic when he landed. Despite his flight being delayed almost two hours, fans were chanting and holding up LA Galaxy scarves to properly greet their newest player. Excitement in the air was palpable and fans were ready to begin the living in the era of an LA Galaxy equipped with soccer great, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The next morning, after clearing a medical screening, Ibrahimovic was ready to join his LA Galaxy teammates on the field for the first time. Hundreds of reporters from outlets based around the world were in attendance. Only the first fifteen minutes of training were open to media, but it was clear that Zlatan was taking in the opportunity to be on the pitch again after struggling through recovery over the last year.
“If the coach needs me for the whole game, I’m there for the whole game,” Ibrahimovic said of his availability for tomorrow’s match. “If he needs me for one minute, I’m there for one minute. I’m there only to help, to push, and do what I’m good at.”
A formal announcement press conference followed Zlatan’s first practice in Los Angeles. Questions from press were asked, and answered by Ibrahimovic, in not only English and Spanish, but also Swedish and Italian. Such diversity in the room seemed to spark a unifying quote straight from the Lion’s mouth:
“Football is one religion. Wherever you come from, whoever you are, it brings everybody together and everybody is welcome.”
The rest of the press conference continued in the same vein. Media members were enthralled by the answers to their questions from the man who could recount of his time in the biggest soccer clubs from around the world. Zlatan also addressed the rumors that surfaced several years ago regarding his move to LA.
“[The move] was supposed to happen a couple of years ago. It was supposed to happen before Manchester United,” Ibrahimovic said. “My head was here. I wanted to come here, and it didn’t happen. Things go sometimes like it’s not supposed to go, but destiny said that I will come here. So, Los Angeles called, and I answered.”
Head coach Sigi Schmid confirmed that Ibrahimovic would be in the list of eighteen available players for Saturday’s matchup against LAFC, but also confirmed that he would not be in the starting eleven.
“He’s in our 18. Definitely. We’ll see how the game goes. We’ll make a determination,” Schmid said. “We want to make a smart determination, not just make a determination for the fans on a given day, but also one that helps us and also doesn’t put him in jeopardy in terms of injury.”
Zlatan’s take on the matter is a little more direct:
“Tomorrow is a big game and I’m already involved. I’m excited. The lion is hungry.”
The LA Galaxy will take on Los Angeles FC for the first time on Saturday March 31st at 12 PT at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.