NEW YORK – His immediate future remains cloudy with rumors of a potential move away from Paris Saint-Germain to AC Milan or even Manchester United. The only destination the star striker would confirm is the one he envisions as his final stop, possibly in the not-too-distant future.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to join Major League Soccer.
"I would like to play in U.S., absolutely," Ibrahimovic told Yahoo Sports on Thursday before he and PSG leave for North Carolina to play Chelsea in the preseason International Champions Cup. "I would like to play. Which team? Am I allowed to say that? No, I cannot say that."
He didn't have to name any MLS teams. The 33-year-old Ibrahimovic said he sees himself living in probably one of three American cities that he frequently visits on vacation. The three, in no particular order, are Miami, Los Angeles and New York.
New York has two teams, New York Red Bulls and expansion New York City FC. Los Angeles, home of the defending and five-time champion Galaxy, will have a second MLS team begin play in 2018, and, reportedly, L.A. is already the city of choice for Cristiano Ronaldo when he plays out his current Real Madrid contract and joins MLS in three years.
Miami is the only city on Ibrahimovic's list that currently doesn't have an MLS team, although David Beckham and his ownership group continues to pursue a stadium for their expansion franchise.
"I think it would be an amazing experience," Ibrahimovic said of playing in MLS. "I see that soccer is growing a lot in U.S. I mean, I was here 10 years ago [and] soccer was not on the level that it is today, but it's growing. It's growing in the right direction and I want it to be on the level of Europe. It will come here."
Beckham opened the eyes of European players when he joined the Galaxy in 2007. Since then, several stars – namely Thierry Henry and recently Sebastian Giovinco, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo – have made the jump across the Atlantic.
Those big-name signings have helped give MLS "a good reputation" in Europe, according to Ibrahimovic.
"I think many want to come over here and play," he said. "Maybe not in the beginning of the career, like in the second part of the career [to] enjoy U.S. with the soccer at the same time and have the possibility to live here."
Even after 16 years of senior team football, Ibrahimovic remains a special talent. The 6-foot-5 Swede is still equipped with the ability to score amazing goals with both power and skill, but what would make him MLS's most unique signing ever is his engaging and sometimes eccentric personality.
Love him or hate him, the soccer world pays attention to Ibrahimovic. When he announced he wasn't going to attend last summer's World Cup in Brazil after Sweden failed to qualify, online campaigns were launched to persuade him to reconsider. He ended up making the trip. He also released a book that made headlines for some unflattering comments about his contemporaries, including Beckham.
A Swedish newspaper report in March that Ibrahimovic applied for a U.S. work visa fueled speculation that he is planning to join MLS. But even though he confirmed his wish to play in the league someday, Ibrahimovic was adamant that he would only make the move for one reason.
"I don't want to be the player that comes because of my name," he said. "If I come, I want to bring results. Or else I will not come."
"To win trophies – that is what I play for," he added. "That is my job."