The narrative that Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets away with hardly a slap on the wrist for any number of transgressions that most MLS players wouldn’t dream of committing got another chapter longer on Sunday.
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Ibrahimovic, whose career has been littered with physical altercations in a number of different countries, found himself at the center of the drama once again after he sought an altercation with Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha not once, not twice, but three times (at a minimum) during the two sides’ meeting at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The two battled all game long, but things started to get personal in the 60th minute.
First, Ibrahimovic wrapped his arm around Onuoha’s neck and threw him to the ground in a lazily disguised attempt to pursue a loose ball. The two then came face-to-face and jawed at one another as Onuoha wasn’t going to be intimidated by Ibrahimovic’s stardom.
18 minutes later, Ibrahimovic scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal — he does this from time to time — but the big Swede marred his own moment by seeking out Onuoha for some more additional taunting. To Onuoha’s credit, he refused to take the bait and remained a consummate professional.
After the game, another turn for the worst: Ibrahimovic entered the RSL locker room and sought out Onuoha once again. They both say he was trying to apologize, but Onuoha had no desire to hear him out. Ibrahimovic was restrained and shown out the door by a member of the Galaxy’s staff.
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After the game, Onuoha told his side of the story, which included a threat from Ibrahimovic “that he’s going to hurt me” during the run of play.
After all of that, Ibrahimovic explained his actions thusly…
It’s not the first time Ibrahimovic has overstepped the line of petulance since arriving in MLS. Last May, he open-hand slapped Michael Petrasso in the side of the head/face because the Montreal Impact defender stepped on his foot. The punishment? The automatic one game which comes with the red card he was (rightly) shown for violent conduct, plus… actually, that was it.