Editorial (March 24, 2018) – The LA Galaxy sent shock waves through MLS and World Football this week, signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a two-year contract on a free transfer from Manchester United for a total of $3 million.
LA Galaxy Zlatan Signing Analysis: Business No-Brainer, but Medium Risk High Reward
In many ways, this is the biggest signing for the club since David Beckman. Zlatan has the third biggest brand and aura in soccer. There’s many layers to this story. Let’s break down the LA Galaxy Zlatan signing.
A Business No-Brainer if not a Highway Robbery:
Zlatan’s contract at Man United was work 220,000 pounds weekly at one point. That’s over $16 million a year, before taxes. In MLS, that’s double the highest salary in league history (Sebastian Giovinco and Kaka had $7 million in guaranteed compensation last year).
Even with back-to-back seasons with serious knee injuries, Zlatan on the open market is worth WAY MORE than $3 million over two years. He could have gotten more money and longer term a number of places in Europe and definitely in China. But Zlatan wanted to come to the United States and MLS. There was only one club for him here, and that was LA Galaxy.
For him, he’s already made his millions and there will be other financial opportunities in Southern California outside of soccer. He recently ended his partnership with iPhone for Samsung Galaxy, conveniently. There will be countless sponsorship and even Hollywood opportunites for him in Tinseltown, soccer related or otherwise. He’s only getting $1.5 million per year from the Galaxy, but by living here, he’ll have many chances to make that up.
On the other side, this is a steal for the Galaxy. Zlatan will sell tickets, merchandise, and sponsorship for the club and league that will easily exceed $3 million. This again gives them an iconic global star that even the casual fans will have to come experience. After the 2017 season and the way Los Angeles FC have entered the league, this is a huge feather in the cap for the Gs.
Coming Back From Injury:
The huge question mark on this signing is not financial, but performance related. Zlatan has had back-to-back seasons with serious knee injuries what in the English Premier League. These are the types of injuries that end careers for young players at their physical peak. Zlatan is 36-years-old. Still, if anyone can come back from this, it’s a player like him.
Still, one has to hope the Galaxy medical and training staff did their due diligence on this one. Another Steven Gerrard-like experience for Galaxy fans would be a massive disappointment. In that sense, it’s a good thing he’s not a DP. He seems up for the challenge: “Different place but same Zlatan.”
Can he fit the System?
Sigi Schmid is one of the more flexible coaches in MLS when it comes to formation. Still, with the club committed to Giovani dos Santos, for better or worse, and having spent a lot in the trade for Ola Kamara, Schmid has an interesting problem on his hands.
Dos Santos has been poor as a winger in MLS. Romain Alessandrini does many good things, but doesn’t play a lot of defense. Having him and Gio on the wings essentially puts the Galaxy full backs on an island defensively. That’s a gamble.
So if Gio has to be an underneath forward (or a false No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1), that means the Galaxy can’t play with both Kamara and Zlatan up top. So you’re either putting a player you spent $1 million to trade for who just scored a hat trick internationally on the bench. OR you’re putting Zlatan on the bench.
If they are able to get all three of these guys on the field simultaneously, that means another valuable piece is n the bench. Alessandrini and Jonathan dos Santos have to be starters on this team, so a Perry Kitchen and/or Sebastian Lletget are going to the bench.
Either way, Zlatan’s arrival will cause a shake up in the personnel decisions or the style of play, if not both. Could Zlatan and Kamara work together up top? Is Zlatan’s health enough of a concern to have him be a super sub? How does an existing starter getting benched affect the locker room and tactics?
Your guesses are as good as mine.
The Lion’s Ego:
For those of you who aren’t as familiar with Zlatan, here’s who the Galaxy are now dealing with: The guy’s nickname is the Lion. He sometimes refers to himself in the third person. He once said (albeit jokingly) he’d re-sign with Paris Saint-Germain if he got a statue in Paris taller than the Eiffel Tower.
Now this guy is coming in, off two major injuries, potentially not starting, and not being the captain. And some of you thought Robbie Keane’s ego was unbearable.
Real Talk: Zlatan suffers no fouls. Either Giovani dos Santos is finally going to achieve his potential we’ve been told about for 7 years or Zlatan is going to rip his head off before the season ends. #LAGalaxy
— Matt Pollard (@LWOSMattPollard) March 23, 2018
This could all be good. Zlatan knows he’s coming to MLS with something to prove off his rehab. He’s coming to a historic super club in MLS with the highest aspirations and new cross-town rival looking to show them up. His ego will fuel his drive to drag this team to MLS Cup if he has to.
Or he’ll come in a shell of his former self and destroy the locker room chemistry because he’s not getting what he wants even though he doesn’t deserve it. Bruce Arena had great experience managing egos and building locker rooms with good chemistry and camaraderie.
Schmid has done that as well, but other than Clint Dempsey, he’s never really had to deal with a super ego coming over from Europe. Now he’s got one of the biggest egos in World Football and can’t lean on the commonality of him being an American.
Zlatan could kick start this team and whip Giovani dos Santos and company into MLS Cup contenders, like Keane did for years. Or he could be a locker room cancer just like Jermaine Jones was last season. The Galaxy had a great rebuild this off-season.
Zlatan could be the missing piece this team needs to win the #RaceToSeis or he could singlehandedly ruin all the work that has been done.