Zlatan Ibrahimovic could reportedly leave Manchester United before the end of the season amid links to Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League.
Duncan Castles exclusively reported as much for Yahoo Sport, with both American and Chinese clubs interested in the Swede not only for what he can bring on the pitch but also off it in terms of commercial benefits.
The Red Devils would prefer Ibrahimovic remain at Old Trafford until his deal runs out in the summer, but they could get something for him if he were to leave before then and are aware his worth is higher if he joins before the MLS and CSL seasons start in March.
United are said to be considering three options in the event of Ibrahimovic’s departure, whether it be in the coming months or in the summer: directly replacing him with another first-team striker, signing a young player who could serve under Romelu Lukaku or signing a winger and then making use of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford up front more often.
Ibrahimovic arrived on a free transfer in 2016 and enjoyed an excellent campaign as he racked up 28 goals and 10 assists in all competition before suffering a cruciate ligament injury last April.
The 36-year-old briefly returned to action in November and December, but as Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News noted, he struggled to fit in alongside Lukaku:
The Ibrahimovic and Lukaku partnership has started today and should also end today. #mufc
The striker subsequently picked up another injury, prompting football writer Liam Canning to cast doubt on his future at the club:
So Zlatan Ibrahimović is ruled out for a month. Another injury. Sad to say, but feel like he’s done now. Had a good 12 months at Manchester United, but have to look long term now.
It would indeed be surprising if he stayed at the club beyond the summer, and United certainly need to look to the future.
Given his fitness issues and inability to play effectively alongside Lukaku when he is on the pitch, it could be worth considering letting him depart early if the club have the chance to make something off him, even if it’s a relatively small amount.