Not sure why he went with such a low-res photo:
I came, I saw, I conquered. Thank you @lagalaxy for making me feel alive again. To the Galaxy fans - you wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome. The story continues...Now go back to watch baseball pic.twitter.com/kkL6B6dJBr— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 13, 2019
Anyway, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's tenure in MLS has officially come to a close. The big Swede arrived early in 2018, scored one of the most dramatic goals of all time with basically his first touch, then scored 51 more, and provided probably twice that many sound bites along the way.
It says quite a lot about him that he has the second-highest goals per 90 in league history (minimum 50 games), literally 1/100th of a percentage point behind Josef Martinez. It says quite a lot about him that he filled stadiums, generated headlines, and, in his brief time here, scored at least three goals that are "I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when I saw him score that goal" goals. It says quite a lot about him that more than a handful of Galaxy staffers and players I've spoken with have called him generous with his time and his money (enjoy the espresso machines, fellas!).
It also says quite a lot about him that I think the Galaxy needed him to come when he did. Given their starting point – remember, that 2014 Galaxy team was insanely good – nobody has transitioned to the TAM era, relative to resources and expectations, worse than the Galaxy. They trended downward in 2015, did nothing of note in 2016, hit rock bottom in 2017 and only really started crawling back upwards when Zlatan arrived in April of 2018.
LA were wounded, and Zlatan was their crutch. His goalscoring got them up and walking toward the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs last year (though not without an incredible Decision Day presented by AT&T failure that ultimately kept them out), and finally back into the postseason this year. Zlatan gave them just enough productivity for them to try to unscrew the mess of a roster they'd been handed.
But it also says a ton about Zlatan that I'm pretty sure they'll be better off without him next year. He is a statue out there – LA are playing 10-v-11 defensively at all times when he's on the field – and a morale-crushing, demanding one at that. He no longer moves off the ball, and demands service (usually to the back post, and only rarely into space because he was only rarely taking space) constantly. When he doesn't get it, it's a scene.
Freeing up $7 million in salary and a DP slot should allow the Galaxy to go after and get a more mobile, more modern, more team-oriented center forward. Whoever that dude is probably won't be able to do this:
But there are a million other things that the Galaxy need going forward that Zlatan was never going to provide.
He got them to the point where they were up off their knees and could walk. He was a useful crutch. But now it's time for the Galaxy to start running – before they get left further behind by the likes of LAFC, Seattle, Toronto and Atlanta.