For football fans, it is always hard to see one of their idols retire. Their plays, achievements and everything related to the sport remains in their memories. But beyond that, there is a select group of players who, aside from being recognized by their undeniable quality, will always be remembered for their personality and charisma. An example of that is Zlatan Ibrahimović.
This week, at 41 years of age, the now former player put an end to a career that began back in 1999 when he played for Malmö. Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barça, Milan (in two stints), París Saint-Germain, Manchester United and L.A. Galaxy were witnesses of the journey of a historical striker whose eccentricities were comparable to his performance on the pitch.
To fully understand the Swedish’s personality, it is useful to look back on a segment of Borja Prado’s (director of Sphera Sports) farewell text for Zlatan. “The Swedish was like TikTok in the age of Internet Explorer”.
A man that left bright flashes on the pitch as well as during press conferences. A player with an endless highlight reel that, nowadays, would result in a ridiculous amount of viral content for platforms like TikTok or Twitter, that favor drama and egotistical takes.
Even during his farewell in San Siro, he left us the last of his notorious extravagances. Throughout his speech, Hellas Verona fans jeered at the Malmö native.
Zlatan, faced by such disrespect from oposing fans, redirected his attention to them while asserting the following: “Keep on jeering. Watching me your highlight for this year”. A very ‘Zlatan’ way to go out.
As an interesting fact and in order to prove the enormous impact of the player in his country of birth, ‘to Zlatan’ and its derivatives are not words I have came up with on the spot.
The Academy of the Swedish Language aproved the neologism ‘to Zlatan’ as part of their dictionary to honor the forward back in 2012. The saying means “to dominate with strength”, like Zlatan Ibrahimović used to do.
The ‘lion’ with over 500 goals and 32 trophies:
For the new generations who have seen the last years of Ibrahimović as a stiff player, better known for his words rather than his game, I encourage you to watch old matches of his.
A complete striker with great associative and finishing qualities as well as a superb aerial game. Despite his height (1,95 meters), Zlatan was unbelievably agile, partly thanks to his taekwondo black belt.
His statistical records are no joke: 511 club goals over the course of his career in over 800 matches define him as one of the greatest forwards of all time.
For many, including myself, his goal against NAC Breda in the 2004/2005 season will always remain in my memories. A goal that perfectly displays the technical qualities of ‘Ibracadabra’. A historical goal.
In spite of an extremely succesful trajectory in which he won 32 titles, the Champions League will remain as a thorn in his flesh. His best result in the competiton was an appearance in the 2010 semifinals while playing for Barça under Pep Guardiola, eventually losing to Inter Milan, his former team.
Anyways, Ibra has left his mark in the tournament, with 48 goals that allow him to rank among the top 10 scorers in Champions League history.
When it comes to his national team, Zlatan is, undoubtedly, the best Swedish player of all time. He is the top scorer ever for his country, racking up 62 goals in 122 matches.
He also led them to two World Cup appearances, despite never scoring a goal in the tournament, along with four Eurocup final stage perticipations, in which he scored six times in thirteen matches.
That way, after 24 seasons at the highest level, Zlatan Ibrahimović retired form the sport he dearly loved (mostly as a result of a knee injury that hindered his last seasons).
‘The lion’, ‘the legend’, ‘the king’ or simply ‘God’, like he would always refer to himself, decided to call it a career in front of San Siro, the stadium in which he achieved his peak performance (although he also was fantastic for PSG).
Translated by Nuño Alonso.
Main image: @acmilan.