Zlatan Ibrahimovic, LA Galaxy teammates weigh in on forward's theatrics

CARSON, Calif. — Zlatan Ibrahimovic's frustrations seem to boil over every time the LA Galaxy take the field, with his demonstrative reactions often directed at teammates.

The Swedish superstar is a demanding captain, he readily acknowledges, but sometimes he seems to go overboard, as Sebastian Lletget intimated following Ibrahimovic's most pronounced show of displeasure in last weekend's 2-0 victory at FC Cincinnati.

Ibrahimovic didn't get the ball he wanted from rookie Emil Cuello as he looked to break free on a quick counterattack in the 90th minute, and so he flopped face first onto the turf, then sat there for a few moments as play went on behind him.

Is this becoming a problem as the Galaxy prepare for the this season’s first California Clasico showdown Saturday (10 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, on DAZN in Canada) against the streaking San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium?

“Sometimes, a little bit,” winger Emmanuel Boateng said. “Because we're human, and sometimes it gets on your nerve a little bit, but we also understand the guy just wants to win, and everybody wants to win, too.

“So when he's frustrated, it's because something is not going right. If everything is going right, obviously he would be smiling and be happy about it. So I think sometimes when things aren't going right, he gets frustrated. But he doesn't carry it off the field.”

Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Lletget and Boateng depicted Ibrahimovic as a demanding, but encouraging captain and a terrific locker-room presence whose antics look worse than they are.

Ibrahmovic said he's doing the same things he did during two decades playing for some of Europe's biggest clubs.

“I put a lot of pressure, that's my game,” he said following training Thursday. “I did it everywhere. [Manchester] United, Juventus, Barcelona, Milan. That's the environment I came from, and I said I come here because I want a lot. I don't come here to relax, and that's who I am, and so far I've won 33 trophies. That's probably more than the whole MLS won together. So I know what I'm doing, trust me.”

Schelotto, a former captain himself, told MLSsoccer.com that Ibrahimovic's outbursts are “no problem” and “nothing special.”

“I talk with him about that,” the Argentine coach said. “Maybe since something happen, he get frustration because he [doesn’t] get the ball, get the possibility, but he's smart, he's got a lot of experience. ... You know, there's not only one way to be a captain. Sometimes you need to yell, sometimes you need to support. His relationship in the locker [room] is perfect. Just sometimes in games he gets frustration, [because he wants] everyone to get better.

“He's always [supportive]. But he's demonstrative a lot, the things that happen in the moment, during the game. He never hide something. He's very emotional.”

On the Galaxy's postgame show, Lletget said Ibrahimovic was “an emotional guy, and he seems to show it a bit too much at times.” The midfielder doesn’t think it's a big deal.

“No, it's not that it's a problem,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “He's either frustrated with himself or with plays that just didn't go the way we would have wanted them to. No one ever wants to make mistakes, but mistakes are always going to happen. It's part of the game, but he's an emotional guy, and he's going to show it. It's just his way of doing things. ...

“Keano was the same. [Former LA captain] Robbie Keane was very fiery, very [much] that type of player. And he held himself accountable as well. We all know what Ibra can do and how well he can do it and how much he can affect the game. We just want to keep him in good spirits, keep ourselves in good spirits, and remember that we are a good team and we know what we can do.”

The Galaxy mostly found Ibrahimovic's sitdown in Cincinnati amusing, while Ibrahimovic said it was nothing personal. It was just about a level of performance he expects.

“No, no. Sometimes I put a lot of pressure — no, not sometimes. Always put pressure, because I like it. I demand a lot,” he said. “Sometimes you need to have a balance depending on who the individuals are. You just have to get to know the player, with who you push more, with who you push less. Because I think here in MLS, the level is what it is.”

Ibrahimovic admitted he must have “more patience” on the field.

“I have a lot of will, I want a lot, and I play with a lot of emotions,” he said. “So I want to do a lot of things, but sometimes it's impossible to do a lot of things at one time. To have patience, the ball will come as long as you keep moving, you keep creating, keep being focused and be on your toes. And things will come. Maybe doesn't come the first three times, but when the fourth comes, you need to be ready, so if you relax and you don't focus, you might slip.

“So patient and still try. Still try because the guys are trying, and they're doing their best, as same for me. I'm also trying, and sometimes it goes and sometimes not.”


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