The Swede brushed aside the issue of his age and fitness with his trademark self-confidence on his first day with the MLS club
As with all new recruits at LA Galaxy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was greeted to the’ Tunnel of Death’ brainwashing where reference is first stepped onto the StubHub Center educate field on Friday morning.
Ibrahimovic’s team-mates formed a passageway and took turns slapping his back, as the 36 -year-old operated the gauntlet. Perhaps some will have needed the fearlessnes of the’ lion’ to strike the 6ft 5in frontman, yet he was all smiles afterwards.
Just 12 hours or so after first landing in Los Angeles, Ibrahimovic displayed a childlike pleasure to be on the training field and beginning what will surely be the final chapter of his decorated career. The former Manchester United man even had to be dragged away from shooting practice at the end of its present session, with a view to keeping him fresh for today’s inaugural LA derby.
But while dedication to his craft has been an integral component in Ibrahimovic’s success at Europe’s heavyweight clubs, his aura has also grown as a consequence of his forthright views when will come forward with a microphone.
In that consider, his opening press conference as a Galaxy player boasted plenty of’ Zlatanisms’- in addition to a couple of noteworthy revelations about his long-speculated upon switch to the MLS.
Ibrahimovic confirmed that he had agreed a move to Galaxy from Paris St-Germain in the summer of 2016, only for the bargain to collapse. He would subsequently pen a one-year contract at Manchester United, which became two, despite the torn knee ligament suffer under last season’s Europa League semi-final.
” My head was here. I wanted to come here and it didn’t happen ,” he said.
The Swede also told how Galaxy technological director and former Man United youngster Jovan Kirovski pestered him relentlessly to move to southern California, during this season’s troubled trauma rehabilitation.
He said:” For the last two months, I’ve been training every day and still not feeling 100%.
” Then this move came up where Jovan started to call me every day and I started to set my intellect on something in a different way. I spoke to Jovan more than my spouse !”
But it was those glimpses into Ibrahimovic’s streak of self-confidence which illuminates up a press conference boasting more than 100 journalists from around the globe( such attention offering a fringe benefit of what the TAM signing will bring to MLS ).
The criticism of Ibrahimovic’s arrival in the US has significantly centered on his age and whether he has a role to play in an era where MLS clubs have shifted towards signing younger recruits. Those days when the likes of Steven Gerrard, Kaka and Andrea Pirlo picked up bumper pay packets for strolling around the field appeared to be at an end.
Yet when asked about his advancing years, Ibrahimovic responded with typical bullishness.
” I’m like Benjamin Button !” told Ibrahimovic.
” They told I was too old in the Premier League- the fastest competition in the world.
” But I did it and took over. After three months, the super-haters- all the people who were criticizing – became my fans.
” I will always take the hardest challenge that is out there. At 35, people told I would never make it in the Premier League, even players I talked to.
” I had 20 years of experience in other competitions and had won trophies, but they said I would be gambling that if I went to the Premier League and the one season wasn’t good.
” But I took all those years and put it on one wager to go to the Premier League and assure what happened.
” Same thing here, I don’t have anything to prove. I simply have to perform. I know what I’m able to do and I will do it.
” I know in my head what the game is. Now the rest of my body has to follow.
” I’ve come here to win. I’ve already brought their own families. My wife can take care of the family and I can do what I’m good at. The lion is hungry .”
Nevertheless, Ibrahimovic has clearly were influenced by his injury. He attained seven first-team appearances and scored once for United when he returned to the fold in November, but his final appearance arrived on 26 December, due to a fresh setback. He admits he was unable to get back to full fitness during the remainder of his career at Old Trafford.
” I started to play, but I had a bit to do before I could go all in. I played six to seven games, scored a aim, but I felt something. I didn’t feel 100%. I didn’t feel ready, so I took a step back ,” he said.
Fitness questions aside though, Ibrahimovic’s signing is an opportune boost for Galaxy , not only because it came on the eve of the LA derby, but because new neighbors LAFC have been inducing plenty of noise in the city.
While Galaxy suffered the worst season in the club’s history in 2017, LAFC are the new kids on the block- bring back the likes of Mexican international Carlos Vela, landing former US boss Bob Bradley and nearing completion of a new $250 m stadium in the heart of LA.
As Galaxy fan Juan Lopez Jr- who was present at the press conference- said:” They were beginning to take some of the spotlight away with the signing of Vela and[ Diego] Rossi.
” The Galaxy have to maintain their place at the top of the MLS table. We are the only team to have five titles and we need a scorer like Zlatan .”
Ibrahimovic is fully aware of Galaxy’s history after speaking with his former PSG team-mate David Beckham, and believes he can restore some of the club’s gusto after joining a long line of aging footballing hotshots become members of the club.
” When David Beckham came here he devoted a boost to the league and to the Galaxy, and set the bar with where he had come from ,” told Ibrahimovic.
” That was something that maintained going with Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane, and now I’m here.
” It’s the most successful club in the history of MLS and the right environment for me. They’re used to getting players from Europe in this situation.
” I find the health risks. Last year was not a good year, but something new is going on. I’m an extra piece in the big puzzle.
” I know what I can bring, and I will bring it. I’m not arrogant, I’m confident. The people who don’t understand say I’m arrogant .”
Arrogant or not, Ibrahimovic has instantly become Galaxy’s star media attraction after simply one full day on the job. Regardless of what he does on the field, that will remain the case.
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