Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic really the best-ever in MLS history? Our staff weighs in

By now you’ve probably seen Zlatan Ibrahmiovic’s latest proclamation. The LA Galaxy forward, after the Western Conference side dropped a 7-2 beatdown on Sporting Kansas City, complete with an Ibra hat trick, called himself the “best-ever player" in MLS.

A snide remark, as the Swede is known for? Not so much.

“And that's without joking,” he continued.

But is Zlatan really the best-ever to play in MLS? After all, the league has been around since 1996 and former FIFA Ballon D’Or and World Cup winners have suited up for various teams.

To answer that question, MLSsoccer.com staffers offered up their perspective. By and large, each response came with a dose of skepticism, even as he’s reached 26 goals and four assists through 25 matches.

Charles Boehm: Best-ever player in MLS? Quite possibly, though there's a pretty esteemed group of MLSers that he doesn't qualify for: the 10 MLSers who have won a World Cup. So how about this: Go win a trophy on these shores, Zlatan, and then you'll actually have (almost) all the bragging rights anyone in your position could ask for.

Tom Bogert: Can you be the "best ever player in MLS" yet (likely) not win MVP in the season of your proclamation? 

Calen Carr: I rate Thierry Henry as the best-ever player to play in MLS. World Cup winner, European Champion, Champions League (treble), 2x Premier League Winner (Invincibles), 2 FA Cups, and for good measure, the Supporters' Shield in MLS. At each level, he had individual moments of brilliance, but combined it with greater team success. 

Susannah Collins: Thierry Henry. His accolades speak for volumes, but what’s also remarkable is the response from MLS players who had an opportunity to play alongside him and against him. Across the board, MLS greats like Landon Donovan have expressed to me and in other interviews that they’ve never witnessed a player so skilled and so inherently gifted. He made every single player on the pitch better, all while also being a tremendous teammate.

Matthew Doyle: 

  • Best MLS Career: Landon Donovan
  • Highest Sustained Peak: Sebastian Giovinco
  • Best Career of Any Player Who Has Ever Played in MLS: Thierry Henry or Kaká
  • Most Talented Player Ever to Play in MLS: Maaaaaybe Zlatan (or Henry or Kaká or Lothar Matthaus)
  • 2019 MVP: Carlos Vela

So, from a certain point of view...

Bobby Warshaw: There are a lot of ways to take this question. I take it as “who would I want to build my team around?” And for that, I would take Miguel Almiron.

Andrew Wiebe: Zlatan is probably the best individual to play in MLS, but being the best “player” is more than that, to me at least. I’ll take one of Kaká, Thierry Henry or Lothar Matthaus (yes, I know he only played half a season here) for their individual skill combined with collective success. Andrea Pirlo and David Villa might be in that conversation, too.

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