Carson, Calif – LA Galaxy officially entered what’s expected to be their most crucial off-season yet after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year and hitting what many would arguably call “rock bottom.”
But LA Galaxy President Chris Klein is wasting no time. He has already made moves this offseason after firing Vice President of Soccer Operations Pete Vagenas on Tuesday.
But an even bigger concern for the club is the status of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic return.
After a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo, a loss that ultimately ended the Galaxy’s 2018 season, the question of Ibrahimovic’s return next season took center stage.
And on a night that was not only a must-win contest for the team, but also Fan Appreciation Night, the 6-foot-5 forward may have indicated that his end was near after refusing to participate in the team’s post-match ceremony.
Instead, he took a seat on the bench, as he was visibly upset while aggressively tossing items around.
Eventually, he later joined his teammates on the pitch, but was seen yelling at LA Galaxy staff and eventually left the field altogether.
Fuel was then added to the fire when the Galaxy’s Public Relations staff announced to the media that Ibrahimovic had left the venue and was not available for interviews.
Speculation on Ibrahimovic’s time not only in Los Angeles, but in Major League Soccer, grew louder after rumors began circulating that he could be headed back to Europe.
On Tuesday, however, the Galaxy held it’s end of year media availability, and to our surprise, Ibrahimovic was made available.
He appeared to be in good spirits and talked about a range of topics from the rumors of a possible return to A.C. Milan, to his thoughts on his first season with the LA Galaxy.
“I think I had a good season individually, more than a good season. I scored 22 goals and did some (10) assists but like I said, it’s not a one man show,” he told media.
“I think we failed in the objectives that we had. I think in the last game, I still don’t understand what happened and I think the fans deserved more than what they got and that’s why I was very disappointed and I didn’t want to thank them in that way.”
“They absolutely deserved more than they got and that’s why, the scenes after the game were a little bit different from my side, because I still don’t understand what happened.”
Ibrahimovic continued by saying that had they secured the 6th seed, he would not have considered this season successful.
“This season was like a rollercoaster, it was up and down, it was not a good season,” he said.
“I think when we changed the coach, we started to do things better and easier, but the only thing is we only had five games to win, and to put yourself in a situation like that after 25 games, it’s not a good season.
I’m used to coming in number one and then you are the champion and then everything is over. But here, we were fighting for the 6th place. If we would’ve made it everybody would’ve said good season, but I think it still would’ve been a bad season.”
Ibrahimovic did confirm to reporters that he is currently “in talks with the Galaxy,” and that he is feeling “optimistic” about a return to the MLS club.
“For me to return,” he said, “I want to be able to challenge for the (MLS Cup) trophy. I’m not here for vacation, I’m here for the challenge. I want to feel I have a chance to be the best in MLS … my team, not me.
“Because I am the best,” he added. “But I want to feel that my team can compete against other ones.
The club knows all my wishes, all my demands. It’s up to them and what they want, but they are very positive. They have been very good to me. They have been very helpful, they help me and my family with whatever I need. I have a good relationship with everybody.
Let’s say I’m not worried,” he added.
“They want (me) and they say they want (me), let’s see what happens. Im positive, I’m happy, I’m here, I have another year so I’m not worried.”
Indeed, Ibra is signed through the 2019 season, though his contract does not appear to have a player option.
Should the Swede decide he wants to leave the club, it is very unlikely that Galaxy would force Ibrahimovic to return if he doesn’t voluntarily wants to return.
“Our intention is to bring him back and have him be part of the club in 2019,” Klein stated.
“We’re having conversations. I know he has certain things that he wants and as a club he’s a priority.”
The club is well aware that European clubs, aside from A.C. Milan, are also on the quest to land Ibrahimovic.
“It’s no secret, there is interest from Europe,” he said. “Absolutely, but my priority is Galaxy. I am here and I’m happy to be here. Interest, there will always be interest.”
Ibrahimovic went on to eliminate any potential possibility that he would choose to leave Galaxy as a loan.
“If I belong to Galaxy, I’m a Galaxy player. I don’t go abroad and do a loan, I don’t need that.
If I belong to one club, I stay in one club, and I focus on that club and I give all my attention to that club, so I’m here.
I have some wishes, I have some demands which are simple things,” he added.
“I had a meeting with the club and they know about it but it’s nothing to worry about.”
Assuming that Galaxy grants Ibrahimovic’s demands and that he declines any opportunity to head overseas on a loan, the question on whether or not he would need to fill a Designated Player roster slot remains to be seen.
“This is up to the club and what they want,” he said.
“I came under special conditions because there were no other options but i chose to come. Sometimes you need to come to show yourself even if I should not (have to) do that but you need to convince and I think the results speak for itself.”
A reporter asked if he could disclose his list of “demands” with the media in to which he replied, “No, I think when it comes to those things, I don’t discuss it with the media.
You will know when the time is there to know.”