Zlatan Ibrahimovic, fresh off another MLS goal, hints at World Cup return

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his goal – the only goal of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire – on Saturday. A day later, he dropped a World Cup hint on Twitter. (AFP)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for the third time in three MLS games on Saturday, the only goal of a 1-0 Los Angeles Galaxy victory over the Chicago Fire. But the bigger news might have been a tweet he sent less than 24 hours later.

The question on the tips of tongues around the world is whether Ibrahimovic will return to the Swedish national team for the World Cup. And on Sunday, Ibra dropped perhaps the strongest hint yet that he will:

“Skyhöga” translates to “sky high” or “soaring.” So … yeah.

The message isn’t exactly clear. Does this mean Zlatan has decided he wants to play, putting the decision in Sweden manager Janne Andersson’s hands? Does it just mean he’s leaning in that direction? Does it mean Andersson and others are pushing him in that direction?

In early March, while still sidelined by an injury at Manchester United, Ibrahimovic spoke to reporters and seemed undecided.

“We’ll see, it’s a tough question,” he said. “I want to feel that I can perform and give something back. I don’t want to go [to Russia] just because of who I am.

“The door isn’t closed for anything. But first I have to play, we can’t start focusing on the national team when I’m not playing. But I feel alive when all the talk is buzzing, so that’s good.”

Since then, he’s moved to Los Angeles, and has been playing. He came off the bench twice before making his first start this weekend. On his debut, he scored a 40-yard wonder-goal and a late winner to cap off a dramatic Galaxy comeback.

MLS substitute appearances are much different than World Cup appearances, of course. And Ibrahimovic hasn’t really played at a World Cup level since rupturing knee ligaments last spring in a Europa League game for Manchester United.

But he’s also still Ibrahimovic. He hasn’t played in a World Cup since 2006, so is presumably hungry for one last shot on the world stage.

He retired from international soccer after Euro 2016, and has not played for the national team since. But he’s Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer, and would surely be welcomed back into the national team fold if he feels he can help the World Cup cause.

Ibrahimovic has roughly a month to decided whether he thinks he’s ready. The preliminary squad deadline is May 14. The final squad deadline – the date by which Andersson and Sweden will have to make their decision on Ibrahimovic – is June 4.

– – – – – – –

Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.