As Zlatan Ibrahimovic prepares to take to the field Saturday for his final appearance with Paris Saint Germain – a French Cup final tilt against Marseille – the soccer world waits with baited breath for his next move.
The Swedish striker has bagged an astonishing 51 goals across all competitions this season, his 38 Ligue 1 goals setting a new PSG club record. He’s also made it well known that this season would be his last in France and the internet has been working overtime, trying to anticipate his next move.
While Ibrahimovic and his agent, Mino Raiola, have thus far remained tight-lipped about where he will wind up, there are several possibilities being floated about in the press. Here is a brief rundown of the four leagues where Zlatan could be plying his trade come next fall.
English Premier League
For a striker who’s won titles in Holland, Italy, Spain, and France, the English Premier League has long been mooted as Ibrahimovic’s final frontier. While at the age of 34, some question whether the time for Ibra to move to England has already passed, his performances over two-legs of a Champions League tie that saw PSG knock Chelsea out of the competition suggest he could still make an impact in the English top-flight.
Manchester United are rumored to have offered Zlatan a one-year contract with the option of an extension. Ibra has been public about his inability to work with current United manager, Louis van Gaal, but if the rumors about Jose Mourinho – who the Swede enjoys a close relationship with – being appointed as United’s next manager are true, the door could be open for Ibra to make a move to Old Trafford.
While Raiola has denied any offers from United have been forthcoming, there is also the possibility that Ibrahimovic could join another EPL outfit, with Arsenal, West Ham United, and even Chelsea all having been linked with him at one point or another.
Ibrahimovic enjoyed arguably his greatest success in Serie A, where he won titles with AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. However, it was perhaps at AC Milan where Ibrahimovic made the biggest impact. Having led the club to its most recent title in 2011, Ibra is seen by many in Milan as a symbol of the greatness that seems to have slipped away from the club.
With the five-time European champions currently on the verge of being sold to a Chinese consortium, the austerity measures Milan have been enveloped in over the past few seasons could loosen enough to bring Ibra back for a farewell tour of sorts.
He has also been linked with a return to Inter, where he could be reunited with manager Roberto Mancini, under whom he won two Serie A titles.
Chinese Super League
Like many an aging European superstar, Ibrahimovic has been linked with – and reportedly offered a boatload of money from – the Chinese Super League. While the Chinese top-flight is still a work in progress in terms of quality and prestige, it dispenses cash like an ATM on the fritz with its clubs prepared to pay well above market value to bring in top-name talent.
Such is Ibrahimovic’s stature that even the Chinese government is rumored to be willing to step in to subsidize a move for him. While it would be something of a disappointment to see him disappear to a relative football backwater like China, if Ibrahimovic decided to “take the cash,” he’d join an increasing number of formerly top European players that includes Jackson Martinez, Gervinho, and Ramires.
Major League Soccer
Last week a belief-defying report emerged from Italy claiming that Ibrahimovic was in the advanced stages of a deal that would see him join the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS next season. At first glance, it seemed like paper talk of the highest order. But over the next few days, scattered details began to emerge of a scenario that while not that likely, was nonetheless, not out of the question either.
The biggest challenge to bringing Ibra to the Galaxy would be money. The Los Angeles outfit already have the league maximum of three designated players – that is players who can be paid above the league’s highly structured salary caps. One scenario put forth could see the Galaxy sign Ibrahimovic and then loan him to a European club until next season when it could free up a designated player spot for him in the roster.
Another possible scenario could see him sign a deal for less then DP money with the promise of bonuses and incentives next year that would see the money even out over time to a rate that would be acceptable by Zlatan’s standards.
With multiple deals potentially on the cards and conflicting reports continuing to surface, it may be a little while before we learn of Zlatan’s next destination.
In the meantime, there’s the small matter of the French Cup final, which you can catch this Saturday, May 21 at 2:55 p.m. EST on BeINSports.