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Why Zlatan is the gamble the LA Galaxy have no choice but to take

1:26 PM EST 2/5/18
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Manchester United 2017
Even though signing the Swedish superstar is not without risk, it is a gamble the team must take to reclaim its old glories

As reports circulate claiming a Zlatan Ibrahimovic deal with the LA Galaxy is almost done — sources tell Goal that, as of Monday, negotiations are still ongoing, but nothing is close to finalized — a lingering question hovers over the Galaxy's pursuit of the Manchester United striker.

Is Zlatan worth the risk?

You might think that signing Ibrahimovic would be the easiest decision the Galaxy could make, especially after the nightmare year the team just had, but it's not quite that simple.

The Galaxy have done an excellent job revamping their roster, filling key needs with proven MLS commodities at multiple positions. That includes at striker, where Ola Kamara arrives having scored 34 goals in two seasons. With the moves the Galaxy have already made, they look every bit like a team that should be able to jump back into the Western Conference playoff picture, and potentially challenge for a deep run in the postseason.

Could Ibrahimovic be the pony-tailed cherry on top of Sigi Schmid's rebuilding job, or could the Galaxy risk wrecking team chemistry by trying to squeeze Zlatan's sizable ego into their locker room?

There is also the question of Ibrahimovic's health. He returned from ACL surgery earlier this season, but promptly returned to the injured ranks, where he finds himself now. As invincible as the 36-year-old may have seemed throughout his incredible career, he looks much less so these days, and what may have seemed like a risk-free investment a year ago suddenly doesn't appear as rock solid.

All that being said, signing Ibrahimovic is a move the Galaxy need to make for a variety of reasons. For one, the team lacks a marquee superstar for the first time in a decade. Gone are the David Beckhams and Landon Donovans, and even Robbie Keane, who fashioned himself into an MLS superstar by virtue of his impressive production and contributions to multiple MLS Cup titles. You can argue that the Dos Santos brothers have marquee appeal, but neither is close to having the transcendent appeal Ibrahimovic can deliver.

In fact, it's fair to say that — at the moment — there isn't a player in MLS who can match Ibrahimovic's star power. League officials are surely aware of this, which should only serve to help the Galaxy do what needs doing to get a deal done.

There is also the matter of Los Angeles FC, the MLS expansion team setting up shop in the Galaxy's market. The newcomers have already made big waves, and last year's Galaxy struggles even led to an exodus of some of their fans over to the black and gold side of town to follow the new team. As good as the Galaxy's winter roster moves have been, none of them have come close to stemming what feels like a momentum shift in the city. Signing Ibrahimovic could help the Galaxy wrestle back control after they spent much of 2017 essentially giving it away.

From a soccer standpoint, a healthy Ibrahimovic could certainly score goals in MLS, and given the upgrades the Galaxy have already made to their team, it would be easy to envision him dominating and helping the Galaxy become legitimate title contenders. He has won league titles in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France, and could help bring a winning mentality to a team that doesn't have many remnants remaining from the Galaxy championship teams earlier in the decade.

The good news for the Galaxy is that Ibrahimovic will come at a considerable discount from the prices being discussed a year ago, before he tore his ACL. A year ago, MLS was offering $6.5 million a year for his services, and a deal could very well had brought him to MLS last summer if not for the injury. Today, MLS and the Galaxy are pushing for a much lower price tag, and while contract talks are still being worked out, it is clear that Ibrahimovic wants a move to the United States.

The Galaxy should do everything they can to make sure that happens, because for all the potential risks involved in bringing Ibrahimovic to the Galaxy, they could wind up losing out on much more by not landing a superstar both they and MLS need.