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Did Zlatan Ibrahimovic use interest from Milan to get a better deal from the LA Galaxy?

Ibrahimovic never really appeared serious about leaving LA

Orlando City SC v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

It’s been reported that AC Milan’s interest in bringing Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the San Siro was, in fact, serious after the former Sweden international striker signed a new and extremely lucrative contract with the LA Galaxy. However, was the possibility of Ibrahimovic going back to Milan just a bargaining tool?

Despite the rumors in the press, it never really seemed to people in Los Angeles that Ibrahimovic was actually going to leave LA. After all, he had come to MLS after coming back from significant knee surgery in his 30s and had signed what basically entailed a “show-me” contract with the Galaxy after leaving Manchester United.

One of biggest clues to Ibrahimovic’s future plans was the Galaxy putting him on a “retained” list back in November. These lists are important to MLS teams, because these determine if a player is released to free agency or have their options retained by the club. With the way that MLS free agency works, the club would have been silly to put a player on the “retained” list that they had no intention of keeping around, as they could have used the slot to try and sign another MLS player or do some business before the January transfer window kicks into high gear.

The other reason it always seemed a little far fetched is the fact that Ibrahimovic himself had made it seem like the move to MLS was going to be his last move. He told reporters during the official press conference to announce his new deal that:

There was a lot of talk, but I never left.

I’m not finished with MLS yet, I still have things to do. My first season was just a warm-up, so the second one will be different.

I know the League and my opponents better now, plus I feel better physically. I came here to end my career.

It appears that Mino Raiola worked the press and Milan perfectly to get a better deal for his client. The constant drumbeat for a 37 year-old player with a reconstructed knee to go to Milan to sit on the bench when he could play more and, most importantly, get paid more in the United States made him staying with the Galaxy always the obvious choice.