Steve Carrillo

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have milestone weekend

Could Zlatan Ibrahimovic join an elite club when he faces off against Minnesota United?

Carson, CA. – There are believed to be fewer than 30 players who have scored 500 or more goals in their soccer careers. They range from Brazil’s Pele to Czech-Austrian Josef Bican, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

That star-studded group could increase by one this weekend when the Galaxy faces Minnesota United on Saturday at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes). The Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has 15 goals in 17 games since joining the team in March, is two goals shy of that magical number and the significance of the achievement has not been lost on the 36-year-old.

“It means a lot,” he said after training. “In the beginning of my career, there were some thoughts … I was good but I didn’t know how to score, I was not scoring a lot of goals. Basic critics. That triggers me, that motivates me and now I’m two from 500 goals.

“I’m super proud, I’m super happy. Thanks to my teammates, thanks to the hard work. I trained a lot for those goals. I’m almost there, and when it happens, hopefully Saturday, it will be cool to have 500 goals.”

Ibrahimovic admitted thoughts of the career milestone have become almost borderline surreal.

“If I think about it, yes,” he said. “The way my career started, there were a lot of critics … ‘Yeah, he’s a striker, but the striker doesn’t score.’ It gives me Adrenaline, that’s the way I am. I turn it around, I make it motivation so I work hard for it.

“I don’t know how many players have scored so many goals.”

Ibrahimovic said his 30-yard bicycle kick against England in a 2012 international friendly in Stockholm, Sweden stands out from the others – “The one they will remember forever,” he said – but he has nothing special planned should he score a brace this weekend.

“No, no,” he said with a grin. “Every goal has its own Adrenaline, let’s say, its own emotion. You see the third goal I had against Orlando, I took off the shirt. I did that one time before, the LAFC goal.

“There is nothing planned. That is expression that comes by itself. It depends on the moment, the situation.”

Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid understandably has enjoyed those “situations.”

“Obviously he can finish. He knows where the goal is,” Schmid said. “He just has great instincts around the goal. There’s not that many players who have scored 500 goals in competitive leagues.

“When you look at that as a compliment that makes him one of the very elite players in the history of soccer.”

Ibrahimovic said he takes almost as much pride in scoring goals as he does in proving people wrong. He spent much of his childhood, for example, with critics doubting his every move. And if children are inspired by his abilities, so much the better.

“Kids have to go out and have fun, believe in what they do and keep going,” he said. “Whoever says something does it just to have something to say. It’s all nonsense what they say.

“If they say too small, what does that say about Messi? If they say too big, what does that say about Ibrahimovic? There is nothing you can judge by. We are different players, different shapes, different ways we play, different characters, and it all depends on how good you do it.

“There is no such thing as you are this, you are that,” he continued. “Just keep working and you will succeed. It just depends on how far you take it.”