Zlatan Ibrahimovic has begun talks with MLS representatives and is likeliest to join LA Galaxy following his departure from Manchester United, according to sources close to the matter. A decision could be made as early as this week on his future.
Ibrahimovic has been released by Manchester United after suffering a serious cruciate ligament injury, and United are expected to sign Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata as his replacement, with Andrea Belotti another target. Wayne Rooney’s departure and Marcus Rashford’s inexperience means that United will be adding more than one forward.
The Reds had been preparing for the arrival of Antoine Griezmann, but he has decided to remain in Spain for at least one more season. It is unclear if Anthony Martial will be retained by the club following a disappointing season where his agent was openly questioning his client’s future at the club.
Griezmann’s decision to stay at Atletico Madrid has refocused efforts on a striker that can lead the line, and while United had been aiming to exercise their option of another season for Ibrahimovic, his knee injury means that while he can remain at United for his rehabilitation, he will not be offered a new deal yet. It is a possibility that United will offer Ibrahimovic a short-term deal should he prove his fitness, but their focus is on adding to their squad for the new campaign by deadline day.
That uncertainty has led to Ibrahimovic returning to discussions with MLS. Ibrahimovic considered a move to America last season, but New York Red Bulls considered him too expense, and LA Galaxy had no room for him in their squad.
LA are now prepared to find the money for Ibrahimovic, following the exit of Robbie Keane, their previous senior striker, who announced his planned departure from the Galaxy in 2016. As a designated player, he would be exempted from the salary restrictions placed upon most players in the league.
Manchester United began their transfer business on Saturday, when they announced the signing of central defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica for £30m. Morata and Belotti could follow this week, and Monaco midfielder Fabinho has been strongly linked over the last few days.
Rumour had persisted that Ibrahimovic would leave United, before he suffered his injury, as it appeared that United would miss out on the Champions League. However, United’s victory in the Europa League has given them an unexpected place in Europe’s premier competition which might have persuaded Ibrahimovic to stay for one last season in Europe.
Ibrahimovic is not expected to return to competitive football until the start of 2018, but fears of his future have been somewhat allayed after this surgeon remarked that his knee was in a remarkably strong condition for an athlete of his age.
There had been doubts over Ibrahimovic’s fitness before he joined Manchester United, and his readiness for the Premier League, but he proved doubters wrong, scoring 28 goals in 46 appearances before injury curtailed his season.
There remains a possibility that United will offer Ibrahimovic a chance to stay at the club for the second half of the season if he proves his recovery from the injury, but he would have to take a secondary role to whichever forwards Jose Mourinho signs in the coming months. Ibrahimovic’s desire for the limelight and game time, as well as the chances of increased wages mean it is expected that he will agree to move to America for next year’s MLS season with LA Galaxy.