Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned down as much as a massive $97 million to join the Los Angeles Galaxy, according to club technical director Jovan Kirovski.
Ibrahimovic signed with the Major League Soccer (MLS) side last month after his Manchester United contract was mutually terminated following a second knee injury back in December.
The 36-year-old notably joined as a non-designated player on a two-year $3 million deal as the Galaxy already had their three slots filled up with Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos.
It represented a huge coup for the Los Angeles side as Ibrahimovic is arguably the biggest star since David Beckham to arrive in North America as he was swarmed by fans upon his arrival in the City of Angels Thursday last week.
Even bigger is the fact that he turned down a $100 million multiyear offer to play in China to be part of the MLS, according to Kirovski, who was speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.
“According to Jovan Kirovski, the LA Galaxy technical director who did the most work to sign Ibrahimovic, the big Swede had a multiyear offer from China even after his knee injury that would have paid him $100 million total,” Wahl wrote. “Instead Ibra chose the Galaxy, which can only pay him $3 million over two years since he’s a TAM player on a team whose Designated Player slots are all filled.”
“Kirovski said the hardest part of the deal was explaining to Ibra’s superagent, Mino Raiola, why he could only pay Ibra $1.5 million a year. Raiola’s first response was: ‘Are you serious?’ But Ibra in the end decided he didn’t need the money at this stage of his career. Kirovski swears, by the way, that there aren’t any side deals from Galaxy sponsors to sweeten the pot for Zlatan.”
Ibrahimovic made a bang on his debut against Los Angeles FC on Saturday as he came on as substitute and scored a long-range screamer to tie the game up at 3-3 before scoring an injury-time header to dramatically win the game for the Galaxy.
“I’m still numb,” Kirovski said about Ibrahimovic’s performance. “Especially for us. With LAFC coming, and being down 3-0, it’s like: What? It was an emotional roller coaster. This was special. He shows up and walks the walk. It’s incredible.”
Ibrahimovic said after the game he was giving the fans what they wanted, but admitted it wasn’t all easy given his arrival from England just two days prior.
“I just wanted to come in. The fans were demanding something and I gave them Zlatan,” he explained. “I felt like I played 40 games for my 20 minutes. I was feeling everything, jet lag, I hadn’t played for a long time, I did the first sprint and I started to breathe immediately. When the second came, I thought this time I’ll shoot and that’s the ball that went in.”
“I had a lot of adrenaline. Step-by-step you build it up. I need to come into a rhythm and to feel the game, but it is not only about the game, but you need to adjust for the weather and adjust for the way the team plays and we need to have a balance the way you can play to save strength for the whole game.”