The European leagues are winding down, which means the summer transfer window will soon be opening, and rumors of moves are rampant. While most of the player movement is within Europe, Major League Soccer is in the conversation with two big stars — Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mexican forward Carlos Vela.
Ibrahimovic, who turns 35 in October, spent the past 12 seasons playing for Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan and, most recently, Paris Saint-Germain. “Ibra” scored 152 goals in 178 matches for PSG, and said, “It is now the right time for me to take a different path.” The French club offered him a front-office position upon retirement.
There was talk he would go back to AC Milan, but now it looks like he is deciding between Manchester United and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Galaxy already has three designated players (the league limit) — Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Giovani dos Santos — so one would have to leave, or the Galaxy would have to do some creative financing. Ibrahimovic made $37 million last season.
“I loved every day I’ve spent here,” he said of PSG. “It is not a farewell but only an au revoir. I came like a king, I leave like a legend but I will be back.”
The other big name rumored to be considering a move to MLS is Mexican standout Vela, who plays in Spain for Real Sociedad. Vela has hinted he would like to play closer to home, and there have been reports he could end up with the Colorado Rapids.
MLS commissioner Don Garber told reporters in Mexico City last Wednesday that he would like to add more top Mexican players to the league, pointing to the success of Dos Santos, who has scored five goals in the past five games and captured the hearts of the Mexican-American fans.
“I don’t think any player has told the story as well and as importantly for us as Giovani,” Garber said. “He’s at the prime of his career, 26-27 years old. … I got a text this morning [saying] that the ESPN SportsCenter Play of the Day was Giovani’s goal against New England.”
Garber went on to say that adding Mexican players would make sense, especially because the league has such a big Hispanic fan base.
“I can tell you that 30 to 35 percent of MLS’ fan base is Hispanic,” he said. “That is bigger than any other pro league in America. We would love to have the best possible Mexican players that we could convince to come to MLS, but it’s up to the player.”
There are 31 Mexican players in MLS, most of any South or Central American country. Argentina is next with 28, followed by Brazil (20), Colombia (17) and Ecuador (10). In all, there are 158 players from South and Central America in MLS.
“We’re trying to capture the heart and soul of the U.S. Hispanic, who is still very connected to home and has their favorite club in Mexico,” he said. “We need to earn their trust and earn their respect.”
▪ U.S. team training in Miami: The U.S. men’s national team will train in Miami from Tuesday through Friday in preparation for tuneup matches for the centennial Copa America in June. Europe- and Mexico-based players will practice in Miami, and the MLS players will join camp the following week. All training sessions are closed to the public.
From Miami, the team heads to Puerto Rico for a May 22 game in Bayamon, and then on to Frisco, Texas, to face Ecuador on May 25 and Kansas City for a game against Bolivia on May 28.
▪ EPL final day: Sunday is the last day of the English Premier League season, and most of the important things have been decided. Leicester wrapped up the championship and Aston Villa, Newcastle and Norwich face relegation. There are, however, two games left that matter. Manchester United would earn a Champions League berth with a win over Bournemouth and a Manchester City loss to Swansea.
▪ Unique uniforms: The award for Strangest Uniforms of All-Time might go to fourth-division Spanish club CD Palencia, which on Thursday unveiled new kits that went viral on social media. The uniforms show detailed drawings of muscles and organs under the skin, similar to something you’d find in an anatomy textbook. Apparently, the idea was born from the team’s motto, which says: “Nos Dejamos La Piel y Damos El Corazon!” (We leave our skin and give our hearts.)
▪ Local friendles: Colombia plays Haiti at 5 p.m. May 29 at Marlins Park. Colombia is warming up for the Copa America and is expected to bring most of its top players. Tickets are on sale at marlins.com/soccer.
Venezuela plays Guatemala on June 1 at Lockhart Stadium to prepare for the Copa. The “Vinotinto” are under new coach Rafael Dudamel, the former national team goalkeeper. The match is at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at compreboletos.com or at 877-737-3376.
MLS: East — Montreal (15), Philadelphia and Toronto (14), N.Y. and D.C. (13), Orlando City (11). West — Colorado (23), Dallas (20), Los Angeles (19), San Jose (18), Real Salt Lake and Vancouver (17).
NASL: Carolina and N.Y. (12), Minnesota (10), Indy (9), Tampa Bay and Edmonton (8).
NWSL: Washington and Chicago (10), Portland (8), Houston and Sky Blue (7).
EPL: Leicester City (80), Tottenham (70), Arsenal (68), Manchester City (65), Manchester United (63).
La Liga: Barcelona (91), Real Madrid (90), Atletico Madrid (88), Villarreal (64), Athletic Bilbao (62).
Serie A: Juventus (91), Napoli (82), Roma (80), Inter (67), Fiorentina (61).
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (88), Dortmund (78), Bayer (60), Monchengladbach (55), Schalke 04 (52).
Ligue 1: PSG (96), Lyon (65), Monaco (65), Nice (63), Lille (60).
On the tube
Sunday: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth (10 a.m., NBCSN, NBCU), Swansea City vs. Manchester City (10 a.m., NBC), Chelsea vs. Leicester City (10 a.m., CNBC, Telemundo), Kansas City vs. Orlando City (3:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPND), Portland vs. NYC (7:30 p.m., FS1, FOXD).