Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have stayed at Manchester United and played more next season, says Dr Freddie Fu, but has taken the decision to follow David Beckham’s lead in Major League Soccer.
After suffering knee ligament damage in April 2017, the Swedish striker was operated on by a renowned surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.
Fu helped to nurse Ibrahimovic back to full health, with United prepared to offer him a new short-term deal after seeing him prove his fitness.
That has now been terminated, freeing the 36-year-old to head for the United States, but medics who have seen him close up believe he is still capable of turning out at the top level in Europe.
Dr Fu told the South China Morning Post: “Right now, he can play in the Premier League if he wants to. But the new season is starting in MLS, so if you’re going to make a move you’ve got to do it now.
“He could still play there at United. He’s very intelligent, not your usual football player. He is very skilful, not just physically but also he can make things happen.
“I think if he stayed he would’ve played more next year. But he is 36, it’s one of those things.
“Zlatan had been talking about it for a long time, that the MLS had been trying to get him for a number of years. After his injury and recovery, maybe it was just time to move.
“It would have been a hard decision but I know a lot of teams team tried to woo him, not just LA Galaxy, but all over Europe too. They did all want him. But he’s been in Europe all his life.”
Ibrahimovic was released by United in the wake of their Champions League exit to Sevilla at the last-16 stage, with Fu of the opinion that another failure to land Europe’s biggest prize contributed to the decision to move on.
He added: “He and the coach [Jose Mourinho] get along well. He liked Manchester United, he’s a hero before the injury.
“His idea was to see if we can go back and win more titles, especially the Champions League. After United lost to Sevilla, I think his decision, in my opinion, was that maybe that was it. This is my feeling.
Ibrahimovic is now the latest star attraction in MLS, with his ability and personality expected to make a similar impact to that of United legend Beckham following his move to Los Angeles in 2007.
“I don’t know what he wants to do with his life, but Los Angeles gives him more opportunities, like David Beckham. He’s got many endorsements and other things like that,” said Dr Fu.
“I think he’ll be great on the pitch. Soccer is not as big in America but I think with him, he will elevate it to a level much like Beckham and other people did, like Pele many years ago.
“He is one of those characters. I think the games with LA Galaxy will be featured on television more now.”