The wave of Swedish imports to Major League Soccer continued today, as the LA Galaxy joined the trend by welcoming forward Zlatan Ibrahimović to the team. Ibrahimović, 36, becomes the eighth player in MLS this season to be born in Sweden, a list which includes San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Magnus Eriksson and Seattle Sounders playmaker Gustav Svensson.
The most prolific Swedish international in MLS to date has been Freddie Ljungberg, who starred for the Sounders and Chicago Fire as a designated player. Ibrahimović, with a history of success overseas, signed a TAM-level contract with the Galaxy, but he will hope to make a big impact with the LA club.
“Coming to play in the United States, it is only fitting for me to join the most successful team in Major League Soccer, the LA Galaxy,” said Ibrahimović in a club statement. “I am excited to join a club with a winning legacy that has embodied soccer in Los Angeles for over 20 years. I would like to thank everyone at the club for making it possible to play for the LA Galaxy. I am looking forward to joining my teammates, playing at StubHub Center in front of our fans and helping our team compete this season.”
Ibrahimović has played almost his entire career outside of his native Sweden, featuring for such renowned clubs as Barcelona, Manchester United, and Juventus, the opponent for this summer’s MLS All-Star game in Atlanta. At the international level, the striker has over a hundred caps for Sweden, a country in northern Europe whose national team will be competing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup this summer in Russia, another high latitude nation. Ibrahimović will hope a strong start to his MLS career will earn him a place on his country’s World Cup roster.
The Swede’s arrival in Los Angeles has created quite a stir, but the imposing Ibrahimović has yet to kick a ball with his new team, so his value on the field is yet to be seen. His slick introduction video, complete with an actual lion and lots of flashing lights, could portend more sizzle than substance from the Swede.
Meanwhile, up the coast in the Bay Area, Eriksson, 27, has been spectacular in his debut with the Quakes, owning his role as an attacking midfielder for a squad that has averaged 2.5 goals per game to start the season. He, too, was welcomed to MLS and San Jose with his own stylized video introduction.
Impressive, no? So, who is the better Swedish import?
No bigger star has signed with LA since David Beckham made the leap across the pond more than a decade ago, but Ibrahimović could transcend that arrival if he can make an impact for the Galaxy. His talents are undeniable — as he himself will unabashedly say — and despite his advanced age, he will be a force to reckon with in MLS. The league has focused its attention on attracting attackers with its DP and TAM contracts, and none is more famous than Zlatan.
Eriksson, the leading scorer in the Allsvenskan last season at Djurgårdens IF, is shorter in stature than Ibrahimović , but his tenacity on and off the ball is without question. Zlatan will certainly bring his style to the Galaxy, but Eriksson will deliver substance in San Jose. So far in 2018, the edge goes to the Quakes midfielder in terms of production, as Ibrahimović has yet to make a meaningful appearance as he works his way back from a devastating injury. Not too many 36 year olds get better after major knee surgery, but Zlatan will not shy away from trying.
Will Eriksson and Ibrahimović face off together, going toe-to-toe to prove which is the more successful Swede? The Galaxy and Earthquakes are scheduled to play twice this season, with the first California Clasico scheduled for May 25 at StubHub Center in Carson and the return leg on June 30 at Stanford Stadium. If both players are healthy and available, they will certainly be the main attractions. Both games, no doubt, will be sell-outs.
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Who will have the better 2018 season with his respective MLS club?
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