What more can you say about the spectacular Swede?
There are no words. But I’ll try ....
Another remarkable performance in El Trafico, a 2-year-old derby rivalry that already has no equal in MLS. And Zlatan Ibrahimovic owns the series, he owns LAFC and he can do pretty much what he likes these days in the City of Angels after yet another incredible contribution.
In a land of showmen he’s pure Hollywood.
Not only that he talks himself up like the loveable and brilliant pugilist of old, Muhammad Ali, then emphatically backs his words up with action. Only the truly great can do this.
His put down of MLS, Carlos Vela and a hapless reporter in the lead-up to this game, was pure theatre. After he’d proclaimed himself the best player in MLS, the reporter suggested there was another great player in the same city at the the peak of his career, who is top scorer in MLS, in Carlos Vela. Ibra in that cool, soft-spoken arrogant way, entered into a short verbal exchange.
“He is how old?”
“Twenty-nine,” came the reporter’s factual response.
“Twenty-nine. You know where I was when I was 29?”
“Yes. Big difference.”
And when the reporter asked if Ibra felt that his words would possibly motivate Vela and friends, the Super Swede simply said, “I hope so.”
With a noisy vociferous crowd in place the stadium was bouncing. It had more the feel of a big European football derby than an MLS soccer clash between clubs from the same southern Californian city. European fans would have been impressed with the atmosphere that came across on TV.
I certainly was!
And it all started so horribly for Ibra and Galaxy, goalkeeper David Bingham inexplicably thundering into Vela in the second minute to give away a penalty, which the Mexican maestro, coolly converted.
Not sure I’ve ever seen Zlatan end up with egg on his face before, perhaps in his lone appearance at Stade Saputo last year, but that was merely a cameo slap, so could this be the first time, given his ‘words of wisdom’ during the build-up?
After all, LAFC had been far and away the best team in MLS thus far in 2019, free-scoring, not conceding, brilliant all round and ten points better off than their nearest challenger, and here they were a goal up before Ibra had a chance to touch the ball.
Not a bit of it. The Man just took over. If someone had said his legendary performance in the first-ever El Trafico between the clubs would be bettered, I’d have choked with disbelief. He was 36 then. How many more incredible stories can a soccer player write in the twilight of his career no matter how wonderful?
His contribution that day hardly needs reminding, but here it is anyway. Emerging from the bench as a 70th minute substitute, he scores two goals, one a spell-binding 30-yard volley struck powerfully as the ball dropped after outmuscling his opponent. From the moment it left his famous right boot, you knew there was only one place the ball was going.
He then won the match with a headed goal, his frame too forceful for his markers. Galaxy that day, had been 0-3 down at one stage. Some start to life in the US for the Swede.
His equalizing goal last night had a touch of the golazo’s too. It was not dissimilar to the original, just not as good, spectacular though it was. A long ball was played up to the number 9, marshalled by two. He managed to deftly lift the ball over one of his minders, and in the same movement produced another wonderful volley that left Tyler Miller clasping air.
Zlatan went straight over to opposing coach, Bob Bradley to celebrate. Not untypical of the man!
He put Galaxy 2-1 up with a far-post header on 56, then 14 minutes later, rifled a wonderful shot past Miller again, the ball fizzling across the turf and into the bottom corner.
LAFC had no answer to the man. This was Zlatan in his pomp. It doesn’t matter that he’s at a point in a hugely colourful career where he’s much less games ahead of him, than he has behind. Coming to MLS has been a master-stroke, one enabling him to prolong his time in the limelight despite advancing years.
And he likes the limelight, just like ‘a Ferrari amongst Fiats’.