CARSON, Calif. — Despite reports suggesting Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be set for a move back to Europe, the 37-year-old Swedish superstar striker insists he's "positive" and "happy" about his relationship with the LA Galaxy and aims for it to continue.
“I'm in talks with Galaxy,” he said Tuesday morning at StubHub Center during the club's final media availability of the year. “They have wishes, I have wishes, but I'm optimistic and I'm positive."
LA's biggest name has another year left on his contract, but some question whether he'd like to stick around after a disappointing campaign that ended with a catastrophic 3-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo. The Decision Day presented by AT&T match saw the Galaxy give up a two-goal lead and as a result fall short of making the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
For Ibrahimovic to come back, he needs to be certain that never happens again.
“For me to return, I want to be able to challenge for the trophy,” he said. “I'm not here for vacation. I'm here for the challenge. I want to feel I have a chance to be the best in MLS — my team, not me, because I am the best. I want to feel my team can compete against others in a good way.”
The club took its first step in a postseason evolution Tuesday by parting ways with Pete Vagenas, the VP of soccer operations, in the first step of what could be a major winter overhaul after a second straight year missing the postseason. But the Galaxy clearly want Ibrahmovic, who scored 22 goals and had 10 assists in 27 games, as the focal point.
“Our plans are to have Zlatan back with the club,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said. “What he did this year is certainly well-documented, from the impact that he had on our team, but I'm sure he will relay this to you as well: He wants to win. And we want to win with him.”
He also desires occupy one of the Galaxy's three Designated Player spots, currently filled by Giovani dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini and Jonathan dos Santos, and Klein acknowledged “that's a possibility.” The club's new chief of soccer operations will ultimately shape the team's personnel approach, he said.
Ibrahimovic pointed to the fact that he arrived in LA well under market value, signed with allocation money.
“It's up to the club, what they want,” Ibrahimovic said about becoming a DP. “I came under special conditions, because there were no other options, but I choose to come. Sometimes you need to come show yourself ... so you need to convince, and I think the results speak for themselves.
“But this is all personal things. Let's just say I'm happy, my family, everybody's happy, and we have a good time and a good life here. [I'd like to resolve this] as soon as possible. I think everything is work in progress. Everybody's working, so let's see. It depends how big loan we can get from the bank.”
Ibrahimovic said he was pleased with his season, especially coming off a devastating knee injury suffered while playing for Manchester United in April 2017.
"But it's not a one-man show, it's collective," Ibrahimovic said. "We didn't make it to the playoffs. I think we failed in the objectives that we had.
“I think the last game, I still don't understand what happened. I thought we had everything under control. ... And I think the fans deserved more than they got, absolutely more, and that's why I was very disappointed. I didn't want to thank them in that way. I want to thank them in a positive way, in a way that we give back, and I think we didn't give back to them, and I feel sorry for that.”