Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been called many things throughout his illustrious career, and many of those have famously come from his own mouth.
The Swedish megastar has called himself a lion, a legend and a conqueror but, by and large, he has lived up to those labels. He ran roughshod in Italy. He shone in Spain. He dominated in France. He became an icon in his native Sweden. He even won two trophies despite playing for less than a season at Manchester United.
No matter what team you support or where you are from, you must acknowledge that Ibrahimovic is a giant of the game.
On Wednesday, Ibrahimovic concluded his latest "conquest", announcing his departure from the LA Galaxy after less than two seasons in MLS .
"I came, I saw, I conquered," he said. "Thank you LA Galaxy for making me feel alive again. To the Galaxy fans - you wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome. The story continues...Now go back to watch baseball."
Los Angeles did, in fact, get plenty of Zlatan. They got the goals, the ego, the quips and aura. The Galaxy, and MLS as a whole, benefitted from his presence. But, as he departs the league, he leaves a legacy far more incomplete than he would admit. A conqueror? Not so much.
For nearly his entire time in the league, the veteran was among the best forwards in MLS. The numbers prove that. He scored 52 goals in 56 regular-season games, an incredible haul for any player, let alone one that joined on the heels of a major injury.
Those goals, those performances, brought about a resurgence in LA. Before Zlatan's arrival, the Galaxy were a team lagging behind. They were a team struggling with identity. Ibrahimovic's signing turned the tide, and reignited a team that was very much in need of a spark.
Zlatan promised goals, and he delivered. He promised relevancy, and he delivered that too. He also promised domination; on that, he did not produce.
Ibrahimovic's career has been built on winning league titles everywhere he has gone, but he failed to deliver on that in MLS. In his first season, his Galaxy failed to make the playoffs. In his second, the Galaxy were knocked out by crosstown rivals Los Angeles FC.
He leaves MLS having played in just two postseason matches, scoring in neither of them. He departs trophy-less, despite playing on a team with the second-highest payroll in the league and a certain habit for stretching the rules when it comes to loading a roster with star power.
I came, I saw, I conquered. Thank you @lagalaxy for making me feel alive again. To the Galaxy fans - you wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome. The story continues...Now go back to watch baseball pic.twitter.com/kkL6B6dJBr— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 13, 2019
In fact, it was the Galaxy's crosstown rival that delivered on the supremacy that Ibrahimovic promised.
LAFC were the team that dominated MLS this season, reaching a record points total while claiming the Supporters' Shield. It was Carlos Vela that transcended the league and set record after record, winning the league's MVP award while breaking the record for both goals and goal contributions.
That led to a rivalry between he and Ibrahimovic, with the Swede famously stating that he has been and is still better than the Mexican star . That comment, that rivalry, only seemed to elevate Vela's game as he became everything Ibrahimovic described himself as. Vela was the player that showed his superiority while also making his team-mates better in the process. He was the player that ended the season with a trophy in hand and his name etched in the record books.
Now, the Galaxy face the challenge that comes with replacing an icon that also just so happened to score a goal per game. In most scenarios, that would be a team-destroying prospect, but the Galaxy will likely be just fine next season.
While Ibrahimovic's presence was no doubt a help, it was also a hindrance. The Galaxy became almost too reliant on their Swedish star, with the rest of the squad frequently deferring to Ibrahimovic on and off the field. He commanded attention, but he also hogged it.
Ibrahimovic offered absolutely nothing in the way of tracking back to defend and, by the end of the season, appeared visibly tired, or possibly disinterested. His last act as a member of the Galaxy was a confrontation with an LAFC fan as he walked down the tunnel and out of MLS forever.
His departure gives the Galaxy a chance to start anew. It gives them a chance to bring in a Designated Player that becomes part of a team, not the team itself. It gives other players the chance to exhale, find their own game and take a step forward. There is no massive Swede to defer to now.
Is that a challenge? Of course. The Galaxy will need to choose that addition wisely. No matter who they bring in, he will not be able to be Ibrahimovic. This new signing almost certainly will not match Ibrahimovic's goalscoring numbers and there is absolutely no chance of replacing his off-the-field aura. And that is perfectly okay.
Ibrahimovic leaves a legacy in MLS. He was the latest in the long line of European stars to come over and add something unique to a growing American soccer landscape. His individual play was brilliant and his off-the-field persona brought life to a league that can always use another character or two.
He will find a new club and a new league to dominate in. He will find new ways to make headlines and new adjectives to describe his ability to score goals. He will find a new challenge to "conquer" and maybe even add a few more trophies to his virtually unmatched resume.
The Galaxy and MLS will go on without him, though, and they will be just fine, too.
As Ibrahimovic said himself, the story continues, even with the closing of a chapter that feels like it could have been much, much more, if he only delivered on what was promised.