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Zlatan best ever in MLS? Vela, Ibrahimovic are all-time leaders in one important stat

Zlatan Ibrahimovic knows how to start a conversation. 

After proclaiming he's the best ever player in MLS on Sunday following a hat-trick against Sporting Kansas City -- this comes after preseason claims of "breaking all the records," amongst other bodacious decrees -- takes have been tweeted, opinions discussed, agreed with and dismissed.

The beauty of the professional wrestling-style assertion is that it is very much open for interpretation. What, really, does "best-ever" mean? Most talented? Best season in MLS? Best career before MLS? Best total career? Team success? Taekwondo goals? 

It's a nebulous discussion, which is in the eye of the beholder. It makes it difficult to quantify, but stats do play a role. Here's one slice of the debate, viewed through the prism of most goals plus assists per 90 minutes in MLS history (minimum 4,000 minutes played).

Player Goals Assists G+A Minutes G+A/90 min
Carlos Vela 42 28 70 4,744 1.33
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 48 14 62 4,393 1.27
Sebastian Giovinco 68 52 120 9,634 1.12
Josef Martinez 74 9 73 6,748 1.11
Robbie Keane 83 45 128 10,808 1.07
Stern John 44 7 51 4,463 1.03
Obafemi Martins 40 23 63 5,871 0.97
David Villa 77 26 103 9,693 0.96
Mamadou Diallo 47 14 61 5,846 0.94
Diego Serna 57 42 99 9,681 0.92

Throughout his MLS career, Ibrahimovic has been the second most prolific player in MLS history by way of goal contributions per 90 minutes. Trailing only... on-field rival Carlos Vela. MLS single-season goal king Josef Martinez isn't far off the two Los Angeles-based superstars.

Sure, the debate isn't settled and never will be. But one thing is for sure: We're watching three of the very best attackers in league history week in, week out in 2019. And there's much more to come. 


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