Tale of the Tape: Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Wayne Rooney

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney - LA Galaxy, DC United

Two of the league's biggest stars will go head-to-head on Sunday for the first time in MLS, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy travel to Wayne Rooney's D.C. United (7:30 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & streaming info).

Two of the most talented and most accomplished players of their generation are now looking to leave their mark in MLS. But how do their illustrious careers compare? We use the occasion to sift through their goals and achievements to stack them up side by side:   


It's going to take a minute to list all their accomplishments, but it's necessary to lay out the facts. 

Rooney is a Manchester United and Premier League legend. The storied competition's second all-time leading scorer, and just one of two players to score 200 Premier League goals, his name is synonymous with the best league in the world. 

With mostly United, and spells with his local club Everton at the beginning and end of his Premier League stay, Rooney scored 208 league goals. Across all competitions, he's also Manchester United's all-time leading scorer, too. Along the way, he won five league titles, one Champions League medal, an FA Cup, three League Cups and even a Europa League, his lone season as teammates with Ibrahimovic. 

Tale of the Tape: Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Wayne Rooney - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/rooney%20zlat%202016%20united.jpg

Rooney and Ibrahimovic with Manchester United in 2016 | Action Images

Zlatan, meanwhile, took to a globetrotting European adventure. He started with Malmo then moved to Ajax, where he won two league titles in three seasons. Then he went to Juventus, before joining Inter Milan, where he won the Serie A title in each of his three seasons. Then he spent a season at Barcelona, where he won La Liga before moving to AC Milan, winning the Serie A again. He departed Milan for PSG, where he won four consecutive Ligue 1 titles. 

Sense a pattern there?

After PSG, he joined United for a season and a half, winning the Europa League. Along the way he scored just the 421 goals in 730 appearances. Not half bad. 

It comes down to longevity (Zlatan) vs. consistency (Rooney), as well as total number of trophies (Zlatan) vs. quality of trophies (Rooney). Would Rooney have won more a few more league titles had he moved to PSG? Probably. Plus, Rooney has that crucial Champions League medal in his trophy cabinet. 


Both players have rewritten the record books internationally, too, even if they sometimes left something to be desired.

Ibrahimovic scored 62 goals for Sweden, 13 more than anyone else in history. He's nearly doubled any modern player for his country, too, as the next two leading scorers enjoyed careers in the first half of the 20th century. Unfortunately, though, his excellence didn't translate much to qualifying nor tournaments. 

Sweden failed to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and were eliminated at the group stage of the 2008, 2012 and 2016 European Championships. 

Rooney, too, has scored more goals than anyone in England's vast international history, with 53, and is second in caps, with 120. But, like Ibrahimovic, his side never seemed to live up to expectations. Part of a "Golden Generation" with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, England didn't make it past the quarterfinals of a World Cup with Rooney. They even failed to progress through the group stage in 2014. 

It was the same story at the Euros, where they even missed out of qualification in 2008. They advanced no further than the quarterfinals in the years they did qualify. 

Neither of these legends played in even an international semifinal. That feels like cruel and unusual punishment. This comes down to weight of expectation. Sure, Rooney had a bit more success, but England have traditionally always been superior to Sweden in men's soccer.


In MLS — unsurprising given their entire career history — both players have been tremendous. 

Rooney joined D.C. United and jump-started a playoff run, starting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference last year. He has one of the league's most iconic plays, The Tackle and assist against Orlando City. His counting numbers aren't too bad, either, with 23 goals and 14 assists in 43 appearances over little more than a calendar year. 

Ibrahimovic didn't lead the Galaxy to the playoffs last year, but, his dominance has been evident. He, too, has one of the league's most iconic moments, his debut goal and insane comeback against LAFC last year. His counting stats are even more incredible, with 38 goals and 13 assists in 45 appearances. 

The Galaxy appear on the way to the playoffs this year, ditto for D.C. Given the sheer number of goals, Ibrahimovic takes the edge in MLS play. 

But, for the first time since the two joined MLS, they'll line up opposite each other. Who will have the edge on Sunday?