Getty Images

Zlatan open to MLS after United; could play at World Cup

Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is never far away from being headline news. These comments from the veteran Swedish striker ensure this is once again the case.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Ibrahimovic, 36, hasn’t featured for Manchester United since December after suffering a setback following his speedy comeback from a serious knee injury last April which saw him feature seven times this season in all competition before breaking down.

Asked in his homeland this week if a move to Major League Soccer, with the LA Galaxy repeatedly linked with signing him, is close to happening, here was Zlatan’s response to Swedish media.

“I did not know that several Swedes went to MLS,” Ibrahimovic said. “That means it’s tempting to play in the United States. Los Angeles is a nice city and I’ve been there a lot on vacation. It is laid back. I think it’s rumors all the time [about my future]. When I play and when I do not play it is rumors. That’s good, that means I live.”

Ibrahimovic appears to firmly open the door to a move to MLS and his manager at United, Jose Mourinho, has previously stated he will not stand in Zlatan’s way if he wants to end his career playing in North America’s top-flight and said the following on Friday.

“We all think it is his last season at Manchester United. It will be a very personal decision about whether to play or to stop. He has won the right to choose his future, his life with an amazing career. This season it has been really difficult for him. Is he injured? No. Does he feel totally ready and totally convinced to help the team in this moment? No. He is such an honest guy and such a champion that he only wants to be back with that feeling that ‘I’m totally ready for it.’ He is working hard.”

The concern for the Galaxy will be Ibrahimovic’s knee injury which kept him out for seven months and still seems to be nagging the former Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Barcelona and PSG striker.

Still, his return of 28 goals in all competitions for United in the 2016-17 season proved all the doubters wrong and if he can regain full fitness in the final months of this season, perhaps his move to LA will be wrapped up by May 1 when the transfer deadline is over. There is also the option of Zlatan being a free agent on May 13 when his short-term deal with United expires.

Moving from his club future to his international future, Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer retired from the national team after EURO 2016 but calls for him to go to the 2018 World Cup this summer are mounting.

Here’s what he had to say about that about being part of Janne Andersson’s squad as Sweden have been placed in a Group of Death in Group F alongside Germany, Mexico and South Korea.

“I miss the national team. If I want, I do it. I want to feel I can deliver a good performance,” Ibrahimovic said. “We’ll see, it’s a tough question. I want to feel that I can perform and give back. I don’t want to come just because I’m somebody. The door isn’t closed for anything… I don’t think anyone needs to call. If I want to, I’m there, that’s how it is. But one thing at a time. When I can do what I want to, I’ll have other thoughts.”

That chilly draft you can feel is because Zlatan is leaving the door open to literally everything…

But why wouldn’t he? His contract his soon up at United with clubs in the U.S., China and elsewhere all interested and if Sweden need him, he should go to the World Cup and come on late in games to deliver goals, like he always has done.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

AP Photo/Alberto Saiz
1 Comment

There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”