Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be at the World Cup but won’t be on the field

Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t play for Sweden in the World Cup this summer. But he won’t be with the Galaxy in June after the club gave its star forward permission to fly to Russia and make personal appearances on behalf of his sponsors, including Visa.

Ibrahimovic isn’t expected to sit out any MLS games during his absence, although neither the player nor the team would say how long he’ll be gone.

Ibrahimovic, who played in two World Cups and holds the national team record for goals with 62 in 116 appearances, retired from international play after Sweden was bounced from the 2016 European Championships in the first round. But since joining the Galaxy last month, he has broadly hinted that he might try out for Sweden’s World Cup team.

That possibility was dashed Thursday in a post on the Swedish national team’s Instagram page.


“A final message,” it read in Swedish. “Zlatan will not play in the World Cup.”

Read a statement on the team’s website: “Zlatan Ibrahimovic has previously refused to play on the national team — and he has not changed.”

“I talked to Zlatan on Tuesday,” added national team manager Lars Richt. “He announced that he did not change his mind about the national team — it is no.”

Ibrahimovic confirmed as much after the Galaxy’s training session Thursday but insisted he was still going to Russia, adding that he wouldn’t be playing or doing TV work. And while he wouldn’t say what he would be doing, posts on his social media accounts indicated to his more than 62 million followers that he would be working for companies he has endorsed and Visa confirmed that Ibrahimovic would appear at one of its events.


“We definitely want to celebrate Zlatan being there,” a Visa spokesperson said.

Visa is one of FIFA’s seven global corporate partners.

MLS’s schedule will continue during the World Cup, though the Galaxy have no games between June 9 and June 30, when group-stage games will be played. Team president Chris Klein said that Ibrahimovic asked the Galaxy for permission to leave during that time and the team gave its blessing.

“He has our approval and he’s not going to miss much training or any games,” Klein said. “This was pre-approved and done in his mind with the intention that he didn’t miss any time with us.”

Klein said that Ibrahimovic’s sponsor appearances were agreed to before the player joined MLS.

“He had some obligations and ran it by us,” Klein said, “and we ticked all of the boxes in terms of approval from all of our people. So it was done before he signed.”

Ibrahimovic isn’t the first Galaxy player to be given special travel privileges. David Beckham was absent for three games during the summer of 2012 to attend the London Olympics and Steven Gerrard returned home to serve as a TV analyst during the 2016 European Championships.

One player who figures to miss considerable time with the Galaxy this spring, however, is right back Rolf Feltscher, who suffered a torn muscle in his chest during an awkward fall in training this week. He could be sidelined for two to three months, although the team said it hasn’t decided how to precede with Feltscher’s rehab.


“We’re waiting to see exactly what the final resolution is and what the timeline would look like,” coach Sigi Schmid said.

When Feltscher sits out Saturday’s home game against the New York Red Bulls, he will become the ninth starter to be sidelined because of injury, suspension or international duty this season. The Galaxy are so hobbled that Schmid hasn’t been able to use the same lineup twice in his team’s first eight games. And the Galaxy started last Saturday with a short bench after midfielder Jonathan dos Santos suffered an injury during warmups.

Dos Santos is sidelined again this week because of a calf strain, which could impact his chances of being chosen for Mexico’s World Cup team. Dos Santos and older brother Giovani, who is slowed because of a hamstring strain, had hoped to play together in Russia but between them they have been sidelined for seven games with the Galaxy this season.

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11

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