Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela remains keen on the idea of linking up with Lionel Messi in a loan spell at Barcelona at the end of the MLS season.

LaLiga giants Barca reportedly considered a left-field move for the former Arsenal and Real Sociedad attacker in January as they sought cover for Luis Suarez.

MLS MVP candidate Vela confirmed a deal was "really close" but the short-term switch failed to materialise as the Spanish champions instead signed Kevin-Prince Boateng, who barely featured in his six months at the club.

Were Barca to come calling again, though, Vela would seize the chance to return to LaLiga.

He told the New York Times: "Who could say no to playing with Messi for four months and then coming back to LA?

"Enjoy, learn and then come back home."

For now, Vela is focused on LAFC's playoff campaign and an El Trafico meeting with LA Galaxy in the Western Conference semi-finals on Thursday.

The Mexican scored a record-breaking 34 regular-season goals this year as LAFC won the Supporters' Shield, and this match has been billed as a showdown with Galaxy talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Earlier this year, Ibrahimovic rubbished suggestions Vela was the best player in the league, questioning why his rival was playing in the United States in his prime.

"I have not had the pleasure [of meeting Ibrahimovic]," Vela said, adding: "Maybe the people don't really love my decision [to play in MLS].

"But for me, it was the best option, and I'm really happy that I made it because I am enjoying it."

Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis is eager to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic and says talks about a possible move have gone on "for a few months".

The 38-year-old has hinted he would be interested in a return to Serie A when his contract with LA Galaxy expires at the end of the MLS playoffs.

Ibrahimovic has said before he would like to play for Napoli before retirement, having previously won Serie A with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter, although his two titles with the Old Lady were revoked following the calciopoli scandal.

Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti, who worked with Ibrahimovic at Paris Saint-Germain, has already said the club are "waiting" for the Swedish star to arrive.

De Laurentiis, who met with Ibrahimovic in Los Angeles by chance, has suggested the player need only agree to a Napoli offer and the deal can be concluded.

"[Ibrahimovic] is a friend," he told Sky Sport Italia. "I met him in Los Angeles not as a footballer but as a normal person because we were in the same hotel.

"I invited him over for dinner with his wife and kids and we had an amazing time. It would be my wish to see him in Napoli colours. It's more than a suggestion and it depends on him. It's been talked about for a few months now."

Ibrahimovic has scored 30 goals in as many games in MLS in 2019, helping Galaxy reach the playoffs.

Having beaten Minnesota United 2-1, Galaxy will now meet city rivals Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference semi-finals on October 25.

LA Galaxy set up a blockbuster El Trafico derby showdown with rivals Los Angeles FC in the MLS Western Conference semi-finals after edging Minnesota United 2-1.

Second-half goals from Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos saw the Galaxy past hosts Minnesota in the first round of the play-offs on Sunday.

After a scoreless first half at Allianz Field, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Galaxy broke the deadlock via Lletget – who bounced on a deflected shot by the former Manchester United striker with 19 minutes remaining.

Dos Santos doubled the lead four minutes later with a curling effort beyond Minnesota goalkeeper and ex-Arsenal shot-stopper Vito Mannone.

Jan Gregus scored a late goal for Minnesota, but the Galaxy were not to be denied as they look ahead to a mouth-watering clash against Supporters' Shield champions LAFC.

In Sunday's other play-off match, Philadelphia Union prevailed 4-3 against New York Red Bulls after extra time in an historic victory.

The Union overcame the Red Bulls in a thriller for their first play-off victory, having lost their four previous post-season matches.

Philadelphia trailed 2-0 and 3-1 but rallied on both occasions to force extra time as Marco Fabian's 106th-minute goal sent the Union through to the next round.

Next up for the Union are defending champions Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference semis.

Carlo Ancelotti joked he will call Zlatan Ibrahimovic about a move to Napoli following Saturday's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona.

LA Galaxy superstar Ibrahimovic talked up his chances of a return to Serie A as the 38-year-old expressed his interest in playing for Ancelotti's Napoli.

Former Juventus, Inter and AC Milan striker Ibrahimovic claimed he would score 20 goals a season in Italy's top flight during an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

Responding to Ibrahimovic's comments after Arkadiusz Milik's double guided Napoli past Verona, head coach Ancelotti told Sky Sport Italia: "I'll call him tonight and say we're waiting!

"I have a great deal of affection for him, I saw he scored 29 goals in 30 MLS games.

"Tomorrow, after I've called him, I'll let you know how it went!"

Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy are in action in the MLS play-offs on Sunday.

The Galaxy will meet Minnesota United for a spot in the Western Conference semi-finals against Supporters' Shield champions Los Angeles FC.

Ibrahimovic netted 30 goals during the regular season, four adrift of top scorer and LAFC captain Carlos Vela.

Ex-Manchester United star Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of the season and the veteran has been linked with a return to Italy, as well as Argentine giants Boca Juniors – where Roma great Daniele De Rossi is based.

Inter do not need to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic to challenge in the Champions League and close the gap on Juventus in Serie A, according to Antonio Conte.

After going unbeaten in their opening seven matches under Conte, the Nerazzurri have lost their last two fixtures - against Barcelona in the Champions League before they went down 2-1 to Juve prior to the international break.

Injuries to Stefano Sensi and Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, have depleted Conte's squad heading into Sunday's meeting with Sassuolo.

Former Inter striker Ibrahimovic - whose contract with LA Galaxy expires in December - has claimed he would be open to a return to Serie A, though Conte does not believe his side need a player of the Swede's quality to push on.

"I do not talk about players that are not mine. It would not be respectful," Conte told a news conference when asked if Inter could move for Ibrahimovic.

"I have respect for Ibra of course, he is a quality player. He has made history in this game.

"I respect him and rate him but it is not right to talk of others, also because I have lots of faith in my players and I have so much respect for my squad. We will get better and keep improving. From these setbacks against Juve and Barca we must come back stronger.

"We need to keep being consistent, we need consistency in displays and training, we must improve every day, this is what I want. If we do this we will take the next step.

"In every match there are areas to work on. We always analyse the good and the bad. We have highlighted areas to work on. I cannot expect miracles."

Sanchez had started promisingly for Inter since arriving on loan from Manchester United, but is now expected to miss up to three months after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury sustained while on international duty with Chile.

"I am upset to lose him. We are all disappointed," Conte said.

"He is a player we thought was back to his best. He was doing well and I was pleased. Now he is injured, it is a real shame also for him.

"He arrived full of enthusiasm and was doing well. He was showing he is the Sanchez of old.

"However, he is now injured and that is part of the game, I had lots of injuries as a player, but each time you come back stronger."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed he would still score 20 goals a season in Serie A as he talked up his chances of a return to Italy's top flight.

But Ibrahimovic labelled former club AC Milan "a disaster" in a wide-ranging interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, while also poking fun at Inter forward Romelu Lukaku's first touch.

Former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic was discussing his options for a next move as his LA Galaxy contract expires in December following the MLS playoffs.

The 38-year-old has been linked with a return to Manchester United, but he suggested Serie A, where he represented Juventus and both Milan clubs, might be his preferred destination.

"I am 38 years old and have the enthusiasm of a kid, with that same desire to win. That, for me, is everything," Ibrahimovic said.

"Italy is my second home. I will listen to all offers, but I want to fight for the maximum target. If I were to come back, I'd want to challenge for the Scudetto, not just be signed by someone because I am Ibrahimovic.

"I can still make the difference. I'm not a zoo animal to be put on display for people to see. I can still get 20 goals in Serie A."

Milan, who are 13th in Serie A with nine points from seven matches, would not appear to be an option, though, and Ibrahimovic picked out Paolo Maldini for criticism.

"Milan are a disaster. They're all talk and no action," he said.

"This is not the club everyone fell in love with, in Italy and all over the world. Perhaps there are too many wrong people who should be elsewhere.

"Paolo Maldini doesn't have what it takes to be a director, whereas in his playing career he was one of my all-time favourites."

Meanwhile, the striker revealed a mooted bet with former team-mate Lukaku, whose touch was maligned by some supporters during his time at United.

Ibrahimovic explained: "At Manchester United, we made a bet, 'I'll give you £50 for every decent first touch you make'. He replied: 'What do I win if I get them all right?'

"I told him nothing, he would simply become a better player. For the record, he never accepted the bet! Perhaps he was afraid of losing."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has backed Jose Mourinho to prove a success in his next position, but the ex-Barcelona striker remains less enamoured with Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho and Ibrahimovic forged a strong bond during spells together at Inter and Manchester United.

The divisive former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has not held a managerial job since parting ways with United in December 2018 but appears to be edging closer to a coaching comeback.

Mourinho recently rejected the chance to hold talks with Lyon as he "has already chosen another club," the Ligue 1 side's president, Jean-Michel Aulas, said earlier this month.

Ibrahimovic is adamant the Portuguese's next employers will enjoy the best of his abilities.

"He had an incredible impact on my career," the LA Galaxy striker told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He is still 'the Special One', a winner. I hope he will back on a bench soon and I am sure he will start winning immediately."

Guardiola, however, does not occupy the same place in Ibrahimovic's heart.

The pair shared a famously dysfunctional relationship over the course of the Swede's single season with Barca, which featured 16 LaLiga goals and a title triumph.

"We never had a direct confrontation because of him," Ibrahimovic said of Guardiola, who is now in charge of Manchester City.

"When we faced each other, he hid. He waited for me to leave and then left the dressing room. As a coach he is a phenomenon, but as a man..."

Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been included in FIFA 20's first Ultimate Scream pack ahead of Halloween.

EA Sports announced the release of the FIFA Ultimate Team cards on Friday, with Manchester City striker Aguero and LA Galaxy star Ibrahimovic among the standout names.

Top-rated Aguero is joined in the first batch by fellow Premier League players Dele Alli, Nicolas Otamendi and Bernard, with a second group of players to be released next Friday.

Below, we have the list of FUT cards that are up for grabs.

FUT Ultimate Scream pack

LM: Bernard (Everton) - 84

CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) - 85

LM: Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund) - 85

CAM: Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig) - 85

CB: Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan) - 86

CDM: William Carvalho (Real Betis) - 86

CAM: Dele Alli (Tottenham) - 87

CAM: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid) - 88

CAM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) - 88

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) - 88

ST: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) - 91

The MLS playoffs are here once more.

Los Angeles FC cruised to the Supporters' Shield title, but the path to MLS Cup glory is far from straightforward even for the league's outstanding team.

Since 2011, only Toronto FC have successfully followed up a regular season championship by conquering the postseason.

Will LAFC join them, or can Bob Bradley's men be stopped? We take a look at the key issues surrounding the leading contenders heading into the playoffs.
 

ARE LAFC AND CARLOS VELA THE BEST EVER?

The above statistic may make for uncomfortable reading for Shield winners LAFC, but no past regular-season champions have been able to match the standards set by Bradley's side.

Toronto broke a points record that had stood for 19 years when they earned 69 in 2017, yet the New York Red Bulls bettered that last year and the new benchmark of 71 was topped once more by LAFC, a late-season slump merely limiting the runaway leaders to 72 points.

Carlos Vela was key to the team's achievements this year and any side hoping to stop LAFC must somehow master the Mexican. He scored a record 34 goals, including a final-day hat-trick, and will aim to echo Josef Martinez, the previous record-holder in 2018, by making his mark in the coming weeks.
 

CAN ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC AND THE GALAXY STOP THEIR RIVALS?

Having missed out on the postseason last year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rather bold - perhaps unsurprisingly - as he slammed the playoff structure in MLS earlier this term, believing it provides excuses for players not to deliver all year round.

The Swedish superstar has at least followed up those words by guiding LA Galaxy to the playoffs this time, while seemingly on a personal crusade to prove he is the greatest player in league history - sparking a rivalry with Vela.

Galaxy's style of play has not been particularly pretty since trading a potentially smart newly built side for long-ball-to-Zlatan early last year, but it has proved effective on occasion. Notably, LAFC still have not beaten their neighbours in five attempts and might fear another meeting.
 

HAVE NYCFC GOT WHAT IT TAKES WITHOUT BIG NAMES?

New York City made a big bang when they arrived in MLS, signing David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, but their star power counted for little in a desperate first season.

Club icon Villa then led NYCFC to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in three straight seasons, before departing at the end of 2018 with the team struggling to recreate the high level of performances under Patrick Vieira with new coach Domenec Torrent.

However, Torrent has got the Bronx outfit playing some of the best football in MLS this season, all without a standout star. The supposedly more modest talents of Anton Tinnerholm, Maxi Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita and Heber, among others, have fired City to the top of the conference, but the playoffs are a different beast.
 

IS THERE LIFE LEFT IN DEFENDING CHAMPS ATLANTA YET?

Despite failing to win the Shield, Atlanta United's class of 2018 might still have a case for being the best team in league history for the timebeing, but they then lost inspirational coach Tata Martino and star playmaker Miguel Almiron after MLS Cup.

Frank de Boer arrived and his infamously unconvincing record outside of Ajax looked set to continue early on, until a string of clean sheets steadied the ship. Even then, it took Martinez's sensational 15-game scoring streak to secure a comfortable playoff spot.

Pity Martinez has not really convinced and a late-season injury for Josef means Atlanta's preparation for their postseason title defence has not entirely gone to plan.
 

THE BEST OF THE REST...

Minnesota United have been a surprise package this year, having added experience last offseason, but a title push is surely beyond them. Rivals Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers both have experience of success at this time of year, however.

In the East, Wayne Rooney will hope to leave DC United on a high but the signs have not been promising late in the campaign. Philadelphia Union have impressed, while Toronto still have a very strong side on paper.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic vowed he would draw on his inner "viking" as he weighed up the prospect of playing in the snow at Minnesota United in the MLS play-offs.

Ibrahimovic has packed his career with bold claims, regularly referring to himself as a "lion", and he remains bullish despite the potentially tricky conditions at Allianz Field on Sunday.

LA Galaxy have returned to the post-season but face a tough trip to surprise package Minnesota, who have hosted snow games in the past in the colder months of the year.

Star Galaxy striker Ibrahimovic, born in Sweden, does not foresee any adverse weather being an issue for himself or LA.

"I'm from Sweden, I was born in the snow," the 38-year-old said in an interview posted on Galaxy's Twitter page.

"When it snows, I'm a viking. When it's warm, I'm a lion. We adjust for every condition there is."

Ibrahimovic scored 30 goals in 29 regular season games in 2019, leading LA back to the play-offs after missing out in his first MLS campaign following a remarkable final-day collapse by the team last year.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped to unveil his own shirtless statue in his home town of Malmo on Tuesday.

The LA Galaxy star has been immortalised in a striking bronze monument near Malmo's stadium, where he began his professional career in 1999.

The 38-year-old posted a picture on Twitter showing him alongside the work and surrounded by crowds of fans, with the caption: "We are Zweden!!!"

The bronze Zlatan, standing on a plinth and said to measure nearly nine feet in height and close to half a ton in weight, was commissioned by Sweden's football authorities to honour their record goalscorer.

It depicts Ibrahimovic celebrating in recognisable style, with arms outstretched and shirt off - although his famous tattoos appear not to have been carved on the glistening torso.

Ibrahimovic hinted at the statue's creation back in December 2016, when he was still a Manchester United player.

The retired former Sweden international posted a photo on Instagram of the plaster cast of the work, writing: "When you come to New York you have the Statue of Liberty, when you come to Sweden you have the Statue of Zlatan."

Ibrahimovic is on a break ahead of the MLS playoffs, having scored 30 goals in 29 regular-season games in 2019 to help his team finish fifth in the Western Conference.

They face Minnesota United on October 20 at Allianz Field.

Los Angeles FC star Carlos Vela broke the MLS record for regular-season goals in his hat-trick performance, while Atlanta United's Josef Martinez scored on his return.

Vela shattered the record set by Martinez (31) in 2018 as LAFC ended their regular-season campaign with a 3-1 win over Colorado Rapids on Sunday.

LAFC's Vela surpassed Martinez with 34 goals thanks to his treble against the Rapids at Banc of California Stadium, while he also won the Golden Boot.

Vela broke the deadlock with a sublime opener in the 28th minute before the Mexico international's overhead kick doubled the lead three minutes later in Los Angeles.

Kei Kamara pulled a goal back for the Rapids in the 40th minute, but Vela restored LAFC's two-goal advantage six minutes into the second half.

Supporters' Shield winners LAFC – who broke the record for most points (72) and equalled the mark for most goals scored (85) in the regular season – will face either LA Galaxy or Minnesota United in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring but the Galaxy suffered a 4-2 defeat away to Houston Dynamo on Decision Day.

The Galaxy twice led, however, the visitors conceded three unanswered goals to finish fifth and set up a showdown with Minnesota – who lost 1-0 to Seattle Sounders as the latter locked up the second seed.

Martinez returned from a knee injury to lead reigning MLS champions Atlanta to a 3-1 victory against New England Revolution.

The Venezuela international scored Atlanta's second goal of the match to take his season tally to 27 goals as Frank de Boer's men look ahead to another meeting with the seventh-placed Revolution in the first round of the Eastern Conference play-offs.

Eastern Conference leaders New York City concluded their regular-season campaign with a 2-1 win at Philadelphia Union, Dallas humiliated Sporting Kansas City 6-0 and Wayne Rooney's DC United were held to a 0-0 draw by nine-man FC Cincinnati.

New York Red Bulls lost 3-0 to Montreal Impact, Toronto beat Columbus Crew 1-0, Portland Timbers accounted for San Jose Earthquakes 3-1, while Real Salt Lake edged Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 and Chicago Fire beat Orlando City 5-2.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to join Boca Juniors and the move could still happen, according to one of the club's directors.

The LA Galaxy star's agent, Mino Raiola, recently rubbished rumours he was attempting to arrange a transfer for the well-travelled 37-year-old.

But Boca board member Jorge Anro claims Ibrahimovic's interest in a move to the Bombonera is real and insists a deal remains a possibility.

The former Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester United striker has spent the past 18 months in the United States, scoring 50 MLS goals.

"It is true that Ibrahimovic wants to play for Boca and it is true that we are in a position to bring him in," Anro told Mundo Boca Radio, as quoted by AS.

"The club is in a very good moment institutionally. It is so good financially that it can afford those luxuries.

"We would be able to pay Zlatan's contract."

Boca made a splash in July when they lured Roma great Daniele De Rossi to Buenos Aires on a free transfer.

Ibrahimovic is contracted to Galaxy for the rest of the 2019 MLS season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not been offered to Boca Juniors, according to his agent Mino Raiola.

Reports in Spain have claimed LA Galaxy striker Ibrahimovic is a target for the Argentine giants. 

Boca have already landed former Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, with newspaper AS suggesting Ibrahimovic could follow from Galaxy when his contract expires in December.

Raiola, however, used social media to refute claims he is trying to engineer a move to the Copa Libertadores semi-finalists for Ibrahimovic.

"I have never offered Ibrahimovic to Boca Juniors or to anybody else. Total #fakenews," Raiola wrote on Twitter.

Ibrahimovic, 37, has thrived in MLS since leaving Manchester United, scoring 49 goals in 53 games for Galaxy.

Despite his outstanding form, Galaxy are fourth in the Western Conference, 17 points behind rivals Los Angeles FC, having missed the playoffs last season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his red-hot form after leading LA Galaxy to victory as stuttering Los Angeles FC drew again, while Atlanta United star Josef Martinez was carried off on a stretcher.

Ibrahimovic scored his 27th goal of the season to lead the Galaxy to a 2-1 win over visiting Montreal Impact on Saturday.

Former Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock with a close-range finish in the 31st minute at Dignity Health Sports Park – taking the 37-year-old's tally to 11 goals in his past seven matches.

Montreal's Lassi Lappalainen equalised three minutes into the second half, however, Uriel Antuna bundled the ball home five minutes later to restore the Galaxy's lead.

Back-to-back wins saw the Galaxy move up to third in the Western Conference, while the Impact are four points adrift of the play-off places in the Eastern Conference.

LAFC's winless streak extended to five games following their last-gasp 1-1 draw at home to Toronto.

Supporters' Shield leaders LAFC looked to have succumbed to Tsubasa Endoh's 19th-minute goal as Toronto – fourth in the east – still clinched a post-season berth.

But MLS top goalscorer Carlos Vela converted a 95th-minute penalty for his 29th goal of the campaign to avoid defeat for LAFC.

LAFC are eight points clear in the race for the Supporters' Shield, though Eastern Conference leaders New York City can reduce that lead to five with victory on Sunday.

Martinez's record 15-match scoring streak came to an end after suffering a knee injury in Atlanta's 3-1 victory against nine-man San Jose Earthquakes.

The Venezuela international was forced to be substituted in the 79th minute after colliding with a team-mate at home to the Earthquakes.

Defending champions Atlanta stayed within three points of New York City thanks to stoppage-time goals from Emerson Hyndman and Gonzalo Martinez.

Elsewhere, Colorado Rapids edged Sporting Kansas City 3-2, Houston Dynamo defeated Orlando City 2-1, Vancouver Whitecaps salved a 1-1 draw with Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake played out a goalless draw at New England Revolution, while FC Cincinnati and Chicago Fire drew by the same scoreline.

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