Exit interviews complete, the LA Galaxy have more questions than answers headed into the offseason.
CARSON, Calif. — David Bingham just completed his ninth year in Major League Soccer, including the last two with the Galaxy, and said he’s always curious to see the amount of roster turnover during the offseason.
Suffice to say the veteran goalkeeper, who is signed through next season, will pay even closer attention to what is expected to be a noteworthy makeover of the five-time champions following a campaign in which they ended a two-year absence from the MLS Cup playoffs but fell two games short of their ultimate goal.
They have many personnel decisions to make and questions to answer, including one in particular. That, of course, concerns the status of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who just completed an historic two-year run in Los Angeles but will be a free agent on Dec. 31.
The 38-year-old, who was MLS’ highest-paid player at $7.2 million in 2019 and just set a franchise record for single-season goals, is drawing interest from some of the world’s top clubs, with the likes of Manchester United and Italian sides Bologna and Napoli among his rumored suitors.
“That (question) is for that guy down there,” a grinning Bingham replied while pointing toward Galaxy General Manager Dennis te Kloese after he was asked if he thought Ibrahimovic would return in 2020. “That’s not for me.
“He can speculate the best, so I’ll leave that to the guys who make the decisions.”
Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto didn’t offer much enlightenment on the subject, although he did say a decision will be made on the matter sometime in the next two weeks.
“We don’t know yet what will happen,” he told reporters. “We can talk about a lot of things, about Ibra, but we don’t know yet. We need to wait.
“This is a moment we are thinking about the best thing for everyone. We have time to make a decision.”
Te Kloese took a tactful approach on the topic.
“We need to be obviously careful on that situation,” he said. “He scored an enormous amount of goals” — 52 in 56 career games with the Galaxy — “his stature and the recognition toward him is enormous. It’s like a luxury to have him, but I also know he has different options, and he’s a big name in the world.
“I think in the upcoming days we’ll have a good solution. I think with a player of his stature and his pedigree and what he represents, we need to be very formal and very respectful of that and sit down and see where he’s at in his career and his personal life and evaluate the best for everybody.
“We’re not moving forward until we sit down with him and see where he’s at,” he said. “I think a player of his stature and impact in both the league and our club deserves all the respect to first sit down with him to see where he is at.”
Te Kloese then was asked if the club would want Ibrahimovic back or instead go younger at that position.
“Who wouldn’t want Ibra?” he answered.
Ibrahimovic’s status isn’t the only concern for Schelotto and te Kloese. If Ibrahimovic chooses to move on, for example, would Cristian Pavon — another mid-season acquisition — take over his designated player spot? What about Romain Alessandrini, who occupied one of the Galaxy’s three DP spots (along with Ibrahimovic and Jonathan dos Santos) but was limited to only five regular-season matches because of injuries in 2019? How about Uriel Antuna, who joined the Galaxy on loan from Manchester City last season but recently extended his agreement with the English Premier League side?
Not only does his status remain unclear, but so does that of Favio Alvarez, who came to the Galaxy in May on loan from Argentina’s Atletico Tucuman. The Galaxy also have until Nov. 21 to pick up the option on Diego Polenta, who recently was voted the club’s Defender of the Year.
Schelotto and te Kloese also realize there are plenty of restrictions to abide by regarding any roster makeover, regardless of talks on a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players and the potential of a strike in 2020.
“It’s not like a team from Europe or South America where everyone can change ten players or 15 players,” Schelotto said. “We have a lot of rules and have to respect them — even the budget we have to respect.
“It’s difficult to change a lot, but we are going to change some players.”
One player the Galaxy won’t have to worry about is dos Santos, who has two years left on his contract and said Wednesday he has no plans to go anywhere else.
“I’m very happy with the people, with the club, with my teammates,” he said. “If it was up to me, I would finish my career here.”