Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not mince words in the build-up to Friday’s El Tráfico. Rather, he minced Carlos Vela’s prestige.
Despite LAFC’s loss, Vela finally responded.
“If we look at the stats and forget age and whatever, I'm better than him right now, that's the reality," Vela said after the game, as translated by ESPN’s Tom Marshall.
Here’s video of Vela’s answer:
Vela addresses the Zlatan comparisons.— Fut Mex Nation (@FutMexNation) July 20, 2019
“Look, to compare me to Zlatan overall is an insult to him. But right now, in terms of stats and regardless of age. I’m better than Zlatan.” #LAvLAFC #MLS #ElTrafico pic.twitter.com/fyc9aisKNP
Vela has every right to be confident. He scored twice in the 3-2 loss to the Galaxy and became the fastest player to 20 goals in a season in MLS history.
He was also respectful of Ibrahimovic’s status in the sport.
“In terms of the rest, he's been Zlatan and only [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano [Ronaldo] are better than him,” Vela said. “The rest of us aren't in the same league.”
The response was prompted specifically by Ibrahimovic’s comments to ESPN’s Herculez Gomez and Andrew Corsello in separate interviews, which ran the past few days.
Among other things, Ibra called himself “a Ferrari among Fiats” and savaged the overall level of MLS. In the Gomez interview, he took a more pointed shot at Vela.
“Do you still consider yourself the best player in Major League Soccer?” Gomez asked.
“By far,” Ibrahimovic answered. “Because ... (Vela’s) playing in MLS and he’s in his prime. When I was 29, where was I? Big difference, exactly.”
This isn’t really about who’s right or wrong, since both players starred on Friday and are leading the two best teams in the league.
Good trash talk livens up any rivalry, especially one that’s already as exciting as El Tráfico. Still, LAFC has yet to beat the Galaxy in four meetings thus far, and Vela can make the loudest statements not just by changing that, but by making good on LAFC’s potential and winning MLS Cup.
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