Five days after playing what could be his last game in MLS, Zlatan Ibrahimovic released a four-second Instagram post Tuesday saying he was heading back to Spain.
But it’s not what you think.
Ibrahimovic is under contract with the Galaxy through the end of the year, and the team said it has not released him to play elsewhere. The team declined further comment, but the social media post, in which Ibrahimovic says, “Hola Espana. Guess what? I’m coming back” is most likely a tease from one of the Swedish superstar’s many sponsors.
Ibrahimovic put up several similarly cryptic posts in 2018, asking fans to look for him at the World Cup. But his only participation in that tournament was as a spokesperson for a credit card company.
Ibrahimovic, 38, scored 30 goals, the third-highest single-season total in MLS history this year in helping the Galaxy return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Neither he nor the team has said whether his one-year, $7.2-million contract will be renewed.
“Let’s see what happens,” Ibrahimovic said after last week’s playoff loss to cross-town rival LAFC. “Too early to think.”
But Ibrahimovic has also appeared to torch what was left of the bridge linking him to the league in recent weeks, frequently denigrating MLS, its playoff structure, the level of play and especially the officiating. As he left the field last Thursday, he grabbed his crotch while being taunted by an LAFC fan, an exchange that was widely replayed on social media.
“If I don’t stay, nobody will remember what MLS is,” he said after the game.
A decade ago Ibrahimovic spent one unhappy season in Barcelona, where he clashed with coach Pep Guardiola before being dispatched to AC Milan on a loan. There are been multiple reports in the Italian media linking him to clubs there. Ibrahimovic has also played in France, England, Sweden and the Netherlands and has reportedly been considering a return to his first club in his native Malmo, Sweden, for his final season.
At least one player really did leave the Galaxy through Instragram on Tuesday: Forward Chris Pontius announced he is retiring after an 11-year career. The 32-year-old Yorba Linda native appeared in 18 games, starting six times and scoring twice this season, his second with the Galaxy. He also played in MLS for the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.
Pontius made five appearance with the U.S. national team, helping it win a Gold Cup title in 2017.