For Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Year 2 with LA Galaxy is about unfinished business

LOS ANGELES — The comeback phase is over for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and he’s ready to win a title with the LA Galaxy.

The star striker discussed his ambitions for the 2019 season during MLS Media Day on Saturday in Los Angeles, telling reporters he returned to the Galaxy on a Designated Player contract because he has unfinished business.

“We were talking front and back and my priority No. 1 was to stay with the Galaxy because I feel I have much more to give to the Galaxy and the MLS, the fans,” Ibrahimovic said. “Because the way we ended the season was not a normal situation for me.”

The Galaxy failed to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs last year after losing on the final day of the season. For a man who had won at least one major trophy at each of his previous stops in his career, coming up short was jarring.

“Normally where I go, I win, and I didn’t succeed with that here,” he said. “It was not OK. I think the fans deserved more than what they got, they deserve more credit for what they have done throughout the season and we didn’t even make the playoffs. For me, that is something new. It’s catastrophic not to make the playoffs.”

But given that pedigree, Ibrahimovic is not aiming to simply reach the playoffs, either.

“Obviously [our goal is] to win the whole thing, but from day one,” he explained. “Not to fight the last five games to make the playoffs, because that is like gambling."

Ibrahimovic arrived at the Galaxy last season on a Targeted Allocation Money deal, a cut-rate price for arguably the league’s biggest name. The Swede said he took that initial deal in order to evaluate his ability to continue playing following the first major injury of his career, a knee injury while playing for Manchester United in 2017.

“Last season for me was more like, ‘How does my knee feel? Am I able to do it, or not?’ So it was not about the Galaxy or MLS, it was more me individually, how do I feel. And I said, if I cannot perform like I did before my injury, I don’t want to play football anymore. 

“But I felt from the beginning I can do it and I still feel I can give to the fans, to my club, to my teammates what I am able to do.”

Ibrahimovic joked he was “finally” the highest paid player in MLS with his new contract, but admitted the knee injury likely led him to the Galaxy in the first place.

“From being the worst paid to the best, for me it’s the same situation because I have to perform,” he quipped. “And I performed being the worst paid, imagine how good I will perform being the best paid.”