On the condition of anonymity, 140 current MLS players from 21 teams were asked whom they would most like to see play in MLS, and 22 percent pointed to Manchester United’s Swedish striker. New York City FC was the only team that declined to participate.
“Ibrahimovic would be great entertainment,” one player said. “He’d be on SportsCenter almost daily.”
When Ibrahimovic was a free agent last summer, sources said that the striker had discussions to move to MLS before he ultimately signed with United. But in November, Ibrahimovic said MLS remains a “huge option” for him in the future, adding that “he could see himself “conquering the U.S. as I have with Europe.”
A number of players said they believed Ibrahimovic’s famous good-natured immodesty is just what MLS could use.
“I think you can bring players with skill, but you need someone with personality who can be a face for the league, ” a Western Conference player said. “He has fun. If the media goes at him he’ll give it right back. There will be a lot of back and forth.”
Messi and Ronaldo were next on the list of dream MLS players, at 20 and 17 percent, respectively.
“The obvious answer is Messi or Ronaldo, but I think Neymar might reach even more people. And because he’s younger, you could have him for 10 years,” said one player.
Barcelona star Neymar followed at 6 percent, even with Man United’s Wayne Rooney, who has drawn MLS interest as recently as last month.
“Wayne Rooney. He’s got a tremendous work rate, hates to lose, and I think he’d be a great ambassador,” a defender said.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mexican striker “Chicharito” Hernandez, who sources said had begun talks over a future MLS move last month, garnered only four percent of support from within the league, the same as Andres Iniesta.
Man United’s Paul Pogba, PSG’s Marco Verratti, and Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil were also among the names touted by multiple MLS players.
A recent trend has seen some top talent move to China for big paychecks, including Brazilians Oscar, Hulk, Alex Teixeira and Ramires and Argentina’s Carlos Tevez. But 54 percent of MLS players did not see the spending power of the Chinese Super League as a threat to MLS’s ability to attract talent.
“I don’t believe that we are looking to buy the Oscars or Tevezes of the world right now,” a Western Conference player said. “The league has gotten a lot smarter with the type DPs they have been signing.”
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