Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first season in Major League Soccer was a memorable one, but the Swedish superstar insists his encore will be historic.
"I see myself as the biggest threat in the whole league for any opponent," Ibrahimovic told DAZN and Goal in an exclusive interview. It isn't exactly a far-fetched statement to make, but Ibrahimovic does have something to prove in 2019 after watching his Galaxy fall short in their quest to reach the 2018 MLS playoffs.
The Galaxy are poised for a bounce-back season, with Ibrahimovic leading the charge. It is easy to forget that the Swede arrived after the start of the 2018 season, in time for the team's fourth match, as he worked his way back from major knee surgery the previous year.
His unforgettable Galaxy debut, which saw him come off the bench to score two dramatic goals to lift his new team past rival Los Angeles FC , set a high bar for what was expected of him. He did not really hit his stride until the summer, however, and finished the regular season scoring in six of the Galaxy's final eight matches.
Ibrahimovic could not keep the Galaxy from missing the playoffs, but that disappointing end to 2018 led to major changes. Former Boca Juniors boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto has stepped in as the Galaxy's new head coach , and he will have the benefit of fielding a fully fit Ibrahimovic from the start of the season.
"I think you will see things you didn’t see the first year from Galaxy," Ibrahimovic said. "We are on a different page now so, but that I don’t see as a surprise. That should be normal for us."
Ibrahimovic has already promised Galaxy fans he would improve on the 22 goals and 10 assists he delivered in 2018.
“This season i will bring something to you. I will break every record in the MLS this season," he said at a recent fan event. The statement may have come off as just more of his trademark boasting, but a run at the the 31-goal record Martinez set just last season is not that far-fetched.
If the Galaxy's other stars can stay healthy and produce, and Schelotto can fix the team's defensive issues, the Galaxy have the talent to challenge for the top spot in the Western Conference while Ibrahimovic could set a new league record for goals in a season.
That may still sound unlikely given the fact he is 37, but Ibrahimovic's dominant form in 2018 suggests there is little reason to doubt him.
Also working in Ibrahimovic's favor is the fact the Galaxy will be competing in the wide-open Western Conference, which is the weaker of the two heading into 2019. The Galaxy only have to face Eastern Conference powers like Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls once during the season.
"I think there are many good teams on the other side. We have Atlanta (United) and New York Red Bull and New York City did a good job," Ibrahimovic said. "There are many good teams – Toronto. I would say every game is open all the teams could beat any team, so I don’t see any favorites. That’s the interesting thing about the MLS – it’s so equal. That is probably what they want and why they have these budget things."
Ibrahimovic's Galaxy could be forced to part ways with one of their star players due to the league's roster restrictions — with Mexican star Giovani Dos Santos a candidate to be forced out — but what is clear is that the Galaxy will have Ibrahimovic from the start of the 2019 season, a season Ibrahimovic is determined to make all about him.