Zlatan Ibrahimovic - LA Galaxy - press conference - smile
Courtesy of LA Galaxy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Signing with LA Galaxy was ultimate destiny

CARSON, Calif.—Zlatan Ibrahimovic knew he'd play for the LA Galaxy. He just didn't think it would take so long to make it happen.

The Swedish superstar, whose long-rumored move from Manchester United was completed last week, appears set to make his debut in Saturday afternoon's StubHub Center showdown with new crosstown rival LAFC (3 pm ET | FOX, TVAS2 - full TV & streaming info). If he'd had his way, he'd already be a Major League Soccer veteran.

“This thing was supposed to happen a couple years before, but it didn't, but I'm here now,” Ibrahimovic said during a news conference Friday afternoon in which he fielded questions in four languages. “The destiny was that it was supposed to happen, the question was only when.

“When I say that this was supposed to happen a couple of years ago, I mean it was supposed to happen before [I joined] Manchester United [in 2016]. My head was here. I wanted to come here. And it didn't happen. OK. Things go sometimes like it's not supposed to go, but the destiny said I will come here. Los Angeles called, and I answered.”

Now it's about getting his 36-year-old body up to speed and to do so after a long recovery from a major knee injury he suffered last April. He's been hurt, has played in only seven games this season -- and none since late December -- and he's not exactly a spry young man. If there's no guarantee this move will work out as he and the Galaxy hope, don't mention it.

Ibrahimovic has scored nearly 500 goals in 730 club and 116 international matches and won a dozen league titles, seven major domestic cups, two European trophies and a FIFA World Club Cup crown during a 20-year career with Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United. He knows, he says, how this is going to play out.

“I'm very thankful for the opportunity that I have here, and I think [I'll give] MLS what it wants,” Ibrahimovic said. “I work very hard to achieve what I achieve, and I'm still working. If I can go in and collect what I've been collecting all these years. They just opened the door, and I just stepped in. Now we'll bring so many trophies that I can bring in to this club.

“I just want to go out, play, give back, make the fans enjoy, help my teammates win. Because if I don't win, I feel as a failure. I feel like I disappointed myself, because I'm used to winning and I do everything to win. I came here to win, and I'm pretty sure I will win. And I know I will win.”

Arrogance? Uh ... no.

“I know what I can bring, and I will bring it,” he said. “I'm not arrogant, I'm confident. The people that doesn't understand, they say I'm arrogant. But the people that understand, they know I'm confident.”

Ibrahimovic, who flew into Los Angeles on Thursday night, said he was attracted to the Galaxy because it's “the most successful club in the U.S., MLS, and I think it's the right environment for me.” He spoke with former Galaxy standout David Beckham, a teammate at PSG, about the league, and “he was only positive.”

“I think [MLS] is very competitive,” he said. “It's growing. It's growing fast. When I was in Europe, we see a lot of football from the MLS, and I know the interest is growing over here, also. This is everything, and I know MLS can come to a level where Europe is. I mean, it's all about time, it's all about how the things are developing, and I come here to try it, to feel it, and to make it better. To be one of those guys who made a difference and gave the right boost to the competition, because I see a big potential for the MLS, and I want to be part of it.”

Club president Chris Klein isn't sure why it took so long to make it happen.

“I don't know [why it didn't get done two years ago]. I mean, it just didn't happen,” he said. “Whether it was different choices or timing just not being right, it just didn't happen for us or for him. It was always something where we kept the conversation going. We never said, 'Ah, that's it,' and fell out. We've always had a good relationship with him and his representatives and always stayed in touch when he was with other clubs.”

Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski, a former youth player at Manchester United who played in Germany, Portugal and England before the first of two stints with LA, was the club's point man on the deal. Ibrahimovic joked that he'd “been speaking more to [Kirovski] than I speak with my wife.”

It paid off, and the Galaxy are ecstatic that Ibrahimovic has arrived and believe he can help the team find its way back to the top after a horrid season last year.

“[This is] the reason I came back to the Galaxy,” said head coach Sigi Schmid, who is in his second stint fronting the Galaxy. “Because of the ability of this club being able to do things like this that I don't think any other [MLS] club has the capability of doing.”

Ibrahimovic says he's healthy -- he needs to build his fitness base and find his game rhythm, of course -- and he's committed, and that he'll prove any doubters wrong, as always.

“Finally, I'm here, and I'm just excited, looking forward to play and just want to go out on the field,” he said. “Now it's like I just want to go out, smell the grass, touch the ball. Today when we finished training, I just wanted to continue. I even ask the coach can I go and shoot some balls, and he gave me the OK. So I went over and I [took shots]. I feel young. I feel like Benjamin Button. I was born old and I will die young, for sure.

“Don't worry about my age. I know I'm 37 [come October], but when I came to England, they all said I was old, [that] I came in a wheelchair. After three months, I conquered England, and they said I was flying.

“I know what I'm able to do, I know what I will do, and I come here to win. ... [I just need] to settle in very fast, get to know my teammates, get to know the people around the club. Tomorrow [is a] big game, and I'm already involved, so I feel excited.

“The lion is hungry.”