CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic was honored by the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce and good-naturedly presented a folding cane by members of the media in recognition of his 37th birthday Wednesday.
The cane came with one request, however: that he not use it on them.
“No, not yet,” he said Wednesday with a smile as the club prepared for Saturday’s important clash against Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park (5:30 p.m., Spectrum SN, SpectrumDeportes). “This will be useful. I will keep it, but for the moment I need to run for my team.
“Hopefully I can run without it.”
And continue to do what he has been doing as the Swedish sensation attempts to lead the five-time MLS Cup champions into the playoffs. They’re still on the outside looking in, but their postseason hopes definitely are on the upswing thanks to consecutive 3-0 shutouts and the continued standout play of the man who recently scored the 500th goal of his professional career.
— Damian Calhoun (@DamianCalhoun) October 3, 2018
Ibrahomivic leads the Galaxy with 20 goals – second in Major League Soccer behind only the 30 of Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez – and also has nine assists. He’s understandably proud he can produce at such a high level despite being at an age when most athletes in his chosen profession might be considering hanging up the boots.
“It feels good,” he said. “It means I’m taking care of my body. My mental part is there because I always said if I’m not performing it makes no sense for me to play.
“I want to perform, I want to help my teammates. I don’t want them to get disappointed or lose faith in me by me not performing. It’s very important that I give back, especially for the fans that come out to the stadium, supporting.
“The best way I can give back,” he added, “is play my game and perform for them.”
Doubters, he admitted, continue to fuel his determination. But they might not be as vocal as they once might have been, especially after seeing the numbers Ibrahimovic has put up throughout his stellar career.
“I think my doubters lasted a short time and they stopped 20 years ago,” he said. “Doubters I don’t have. It’s for myself playing and making me feel alive that I’m able to do what I always did and I’m doing it in my way and what I’m good at.
“Doubters, for me,” he went on. “I eat them for breakfast. By lunch they are gone, by dinner they are invisible. I don’t have any doubters. Haters … that I like.”
And what drives him? He simply does not like to lose.
“Like I said in the first press conference I was here, I said I didn’t come for vacation,” he said. “You see my tan is not as it could be because I came here to play. I came here to win. And I want to win.
“That is my mentality, that is my DNA. That is what I want. That is what I work hard every day for. Today I was supposed to do half training. I didn’t want to; I did full training. That’s me, I want to work.”
Ibrahimovic would appear to be in the running for MLS MVP honors along with the likes of Atlanta’s Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron and the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips, but winning the award isn’t high on Ibrahimovic’s list.
In fact, it might not be there at all.
“For me, that’s just extra points. I think I’m bigger than all MLS,” he said with a grin. “For me that award it’s a bonus for whoever gets it. I don’t want it if we don’t win the whole thing. I prefer my team to get in the playoffs, win the big trophy and whatever comes after that is just a bonus.
“That is not my focus. My bonus is if I bring my team to the playoffs. I promised them to win the first day we came to training and I said we will win.
“I see that happiness in their face,” he went on, “that is my satisfaction.”