Sports

This Player has the Biggest Ego in American Sports but Most Have Never Heard of Him

“I know there are some earthquakes in Los Angeles,” the tall, suited Swedish man said to Jimmy Kimmel. “This one was me stepping in Los Angeles.”

The guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in March the 36-year-old soccer player who became the latest soccer star to sign with LA Galaxy. Ibrahimovic followed in the footsteps of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole, giants of the European game.

“I look forward to the new challenge,” Beckham said after signing in 2007 from Real Madrid. Eight years later, Liverpool captain Gerrard echoed those words, saying: “I’m very excited to begin the next chapter of my career in the United States.”

But not Ibrahimovic. No, the swaggering Swede took up a whole page advert in the LA Times, leaving it largely blank except for the words: “Dear Los Angeles, You’re Welcome.”

It was a colorful arrival typical of the man lauded across much of Europe. But Ibrahimovic has reason to be arrogant. He has won the domestic title in four different countries, playing for some of the world’s most famous teams.

Developed at Ajax, he won the Eredivisie twice before quickly moving on to Italy with Inter Milan. There, he won three league titles and two cups in three years, which earned him the move to Barcelona.

Ibrahimovic’s time in Spain is the only blot on his career—and it still includes four trophies in just two years. The Swede clashed with then-manager Pep Guardiola, as the coach built the team around the young emerging talent of Lionel Messi.

Ibrahimovic was outspoken on their relationship for years to come. “When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari,” he later said of his move to Barcelona. “If you drive a Ferrari, you put premium petrol in the take, you hit the motorway and you step on the gas. Guardiola filled up with diesel and took a spin in the countryside. He should have bought a Fiat.”

It wasn’t the first time Ibrahimovic’s words had made headlines. He once spoke about a potential move to Arsenal but was asked to do a trial by French manager Arsene Wenger.

“I was like, ‘No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions,’” he said. “I thought, ‘You either know me or you don’t and if you don’t know me, you can’t really want me’.”

And he certainly didn’t have to do one before joining the Galaxy. Speaking to Kimmel, the striker said he’d been considering this move during his time at Manchester United.

“It's been a couple of years I've had my eyes on Los Angeles,” he said. “And I wanted to give them a gift.”

The present Ibrahimovic referred to was the last-minute winner he scored in his first game for the team, a long-range volley that looped over the goalkeeper. 

The question on many supporters’ lips across Europe—and the rest of the world—is whether they will see Ibrahimovic this summer at the World Cup in Russia. He retired after the European Championships in 2016 but has hinted he may be back for Sweden.

“I just said I'm going to the World Cup. If I say more... they will hang me,” Ibrahimovic said. That may just give U.S. soccer fans a team to support this summer.