Reaching its landmark 25th season in 2020, MLS released “The 25 Greatest” on Wednesday to acknowledge the players who, in the words of the league, “achieved the most on the field, drove the narrative off the field and helped lay the foundation or set the course going forward.”
It was in March 2018 that Ibrahimovic announced himself to American sports fans with a ludicrous long-range volley on his MLS debut as he helped his Los Angeles Galaxy side beat crosstown rivals LAFC.
Until his departure at the end of the 2019 season, Ibrahimovic feasted on defenses at the rate of nearly a goal (52) every game (56) and undoubtedly helped raise the profile of the league globally, just as Beckham did during his spell in Los Angeles a decade earlier.
Not for nothing did the Swede make his stateside move official by taking out a signed full-page advert in the Los Angeles Times, with only the words “Dear Los Angeles, you’re welcome” above his name.
Ibrahimovic cared little for the observation that foreign footballers join MLS in the twilight of their careers, with a twinkle in his eye telling CNN Sport in early 2019, “imagine what will happen this season” when it was pointed out that he once said, “the older I get, the better I get, like red wine.”
The goals flowed, with his vintage performances often leaving supporters drooling in admiration. But Ibrahimovic could not bring trophies to Los Angeles, unlike his spells in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France and England.
Now aged 39 and playing for AC Milan, Ibrahimovic continues to make good on his prophesy that he improves with age.
Milan are undefeated and five points clear at the top of Serie A, and Ibrahimovic is the league’s top scorer, with 10 goals in only six appearances.
One unabashed supporter of the Swede making “The 25 Greatest” was MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who admitted to CNN Sport that he thought “Zlatan should have been on that list.”
While noting that he did not get a vote, Garber felt the forward was “one of the more exciting and productive players in the short time that he was in MLS.”
The former US Men’s National Team midfielder and two-time MLS Cup winner Cobi Jones — who did make the list — told CNN Sport this week that “it looks like they [MLS] are giving a little bit of love to some of that older generation within MLS that helped kick it off, even though there is a sprinkling of others along the way.”
Ibrahimovic certainly sprinkled his magic over the best part of two years but it was not deemed enough. Perhaps he will take out another newspaper advert to express any updated thoughts on the matter.
The 25 players to make the list are:
• Jeff Agoos
• Kyle Beckerman
• David Beckham
• Carlos Bocanegra
• Dwayne De Rosario
• Clint Dempsey
• Landon Donovan
• Marco Etcheverry
• Robin Fraser
• Sebastian Giovinco
• Kevin Hartman
• Cobi Jones
• Robbie Keane
• Chad Marshall
• Josef Martinez
• Tony Meola
• Jaime Moreno
• Eddie Pope
• Steve Ralston
• Nick Rimando
• Carlos Valderrama
• Diego Valeri
• Chris Wondolowski
• Bradley Wright-Phillips