With Zlatan Ibrahimovic calling time on his Manchester United career last week, his No. 10 jersey at the club has become vacant. Here are eight stars who could wear the famous number for the Red Devils next season.
The 36-year-old ended his stay at Old Trafford on Thursday last week, and immediately signed with MLS side LA Galaxy on a free transfer.
The forward had a successful first season with United, but after picking up a serious knee injury in the UEFA Europa League towards the end of that campaign, his playing time quickly reduced as he sustained a number of small niggles afterwards.
Manchester Evening News believes that one of five players could be handed the former Paris Saint-Germain star’s playing number jersey in the coming months – two of whom are at the club already, while the other three may be brought in by manager Jose Mourinho.
The players at the club who are tipped to inherit the jersey number are Jesse Lingard and Spanish playmaker Juan Mata. Both have been impressive for the English giants this season, and could be rewarded with a new number in 2018/19.
Juventus superstar Paulo Dybala, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann and Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane are three stars who have been linked with a switch to United next season, and could potentially wear the No. 10.
Others who have also been linked with moves to Old Trafford and could take the No. 10 jersey next season, according to various reports, are Chelsea’s Willian, and the Real Madrid duo of Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale.
Last week, Sweden’s international soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic left one of the world’s wealthiest clubs to sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and he is reportedly taking a massive pay cut to come to the U.S.
At Manchester United, where he more recently struggled to find playing time after returning from a serious knee injury, he was making $27 million a year. At the Galaxy, his salary will be a far more modest $1.4 million, reports Sports Illustrated citing the Spanish newspaper Marca. That’s 95 percent less.
The Swede is one of the most famous players in the world. In a video announcing his arrival to Los Angeles that the Galaxy posted on Twitter, Ibrahimovic walks beside a lion and says, “Los Angeles, welcome to Zlatan.”
On Friday, he took out a full page of the LA Times to post an ad that read, “Dear Los Angeles, You’re welcome.”
MLS clubs face a $4 million wage cap, but they can exceed that limit with a few exceptional players thanks to the Designated Players Rule, otherwise known as the “Beckham Rule.” After David Beckham joined the Galaxy back in 2007, kicking off this trend of European stars retiring in the U.S., he earned $255 million over his six years in the league.
Beckham’s substantial income included more than just his salary, which itself amounted only to $6.5 million a year, reports Forbes. It came largely from endorsements and “revenue sharing.” The superstar was such a valuable asset when it came to filling up stadiums, selling merchandise and promoting the brand that the Galaxy gave him a portion of the money it brought in.
Unlike many of the players who later followed Beckham to the U.S. — such as Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo — Ibrahimovic will not be a “designated player.” But, like Beckham, he could still receive income from sponsorship and endorsements.
The Swede is bringing not only his talent but also his personality to LA. He is a notorious prankster, for example. Kicking his teammates in the head is kind of his thing, as he once demonstrated during a live interview after a game. His arrogance is endearing not only because it is funny, but because he can back it up. He is Sweden’s all-time top goal scorer. He has won 33 club trophies in his career. His impressive resume spans Europe’s top clubs.
Before United, he had stints at Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. And he has won the league cup in four different countries. As his site notes, “No one in the world has won in five.”
Some of his goals are unforgettable. In one for his country, he responded to an insufficient clearance from England’s goalkeeper with a one-time bicycle kick from 30 yards out. In an earlier one for Ajax, he danced through an entire defense, as players threw themselves in the way of shots that were not actually coming, before he casually passed the ball into the corner of the net.
Now, at 36 years old, he is still a threat on the field. There are rumors he will be coming out of international retirement to play with Sweden in the World Cup this summer.
“After being in Europe, winning 33 trophies, playing in the best teams in the world, playing with the best players in the world, I wanted to come to the U.S. and play my game there,” Ibrahimovic said of the move. “I wanted people to enjoy my game there and to win, and I chose the Galaxy to do that.”