Even the immortal “Ibra” ended up being overtaken by the passage of time. Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced on Sunday evening June 4 that he was ending a 41-year career where he collected titles, goals, rants and, at the end, injuries.
“It’s time to say goodbye to football, not just to you. There are too many emotions now, go Milan and goodbye,” launched the Swedish striker at the microphone, on the ground of the San Siro stadium, after the victory of his partners against Hellas Verona (3-1) during the 38th and last day of the Italian championship. Players, managers and supporters, tears flowed during the farewell of the Nordic legend. “Thank you all, from tomorrow I am a free man. It has been a long career, of which I am proud. THANKS”he said later in a press conference.
AC Milan, the club to which he returned at the end of 2019 and which he largely contributed to bringing back to the top, with in particular the title of Italian champion in 2022, had announced the day before that he would not extend his contract.
Due to repeated injuries, the 40-year-old has hardly been able to play this season. He returned to competition in February after undergoing surgery on his left knee in May 2022. The Swede started just one game in 2022-23, in March, when they won 3-1 at the home ground. ‘Udinese. He then became the oldest goalscorer in Serie A history.
At the end of March, he still hoped to be able to play Euro-2024, next year in Germany. But he then re-injured a calf during a pre-match warm-up in April, and has since finished the season on the sidelines, where he was again for the last game of his career on Sunday night .
“We can only thank him for everything he has done for us. And it’s sad that a champion like that no longer plays football.”coach Stefano Pioli commented on the Milan club channel.
Everything except the Champions League
Considered one of the best center forwards in history, “Zlatan” has won almost everything at club level, with the notable exception of the Champions League which has always been denied to him. His record includes league titles in four different countries: two in the Netherlands with Ajax Amsterdam (2001-04), five in Italy (three with Inter between 2006-09, two with AC Milan between 2010 and 2012 then from 2020 to 2023), one in Spain with FC Barcelona (2009-11) and four in France with Paris SG (2012-16).
We must add a Europa League with Manchester United (2016-18) and no title under the colors of the Los Angeles Galaxy from March 2018 to November 2019, but a few good words for the American public who loved his outgoing personality and his showman side.
“You wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. It was nothing. The story continues… Now go back to your baseball games”, he had tweeted as a farewell to his American supporters. At PSG,I arrived like a king, I leave like a legend”he had declared a few months earlier when he left the club where there was no “Nothing” before him.
Born in Malmö on October 3, 1981, to a Bosnian Muslim father and a Croatian Catholic mother, “Ibra” was first passionate about taekwondo as a teenager. His past in this martial art, he used it to delight the fans of his “kung-fu” goals, in extension, or his brilliant inspirations like his return of more than 35 meters against England in 2012, or his 2004 slalom with Ajax Amsterdam, dribbling past six players before beating the keeper, an action that launched his career.
In addition to his XXL ego, the Swede was above all an exemplary professional, as Carlo Ancelotti had told. In a book, My Coaching Secrets he explains that he had been introduced to Zlatan ase “a difficult player to manage”. But he discovered at PSG a player “very available and professional, always focused on his work”.
What will be the future of the one who is the top scorer in the history of the Swedish selection (62 goals in 122 selections)? Coach ? Probably not. “Ibra”, who already has a statue of him in Malmö, did not hide his interest in cinema when he lived in Los Angeles. “Let’s enjoy the future, a new chapter begins”he simply launched Sunday evening.