Zlatan Ibrahimovic announces retirement aged 41

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has announced his retirement from football at the age of 41, confirming his decision following AC Milan’s final game of the 2022/23 seaon.

It marks the end of a professional career that began in 1999, spanning four decades. The larger than life Swede ends his playing days with 573 goals for club and country in 12 shy of 1,000 games.

Ibrahimovic began his career at hometown club Malmo, initially joining the youth ranks in 1995 after playing youth football at two other neighbourhood teams since 1989.

A 2001 transfer to Ajax brought the forward to a wider audience, before a big money move to Juventus in 2004 and a switch to Inter two years later in the wake of Juve’s Calciopoli relegation. Barcelona spent big on Ibrahimovic in 2009, sending Samuel Eto’o and cash to San Siro in a deal worth a total of €66m, although his time at Camp Nou was disappointing and short-lived, famously failing to land on the same page as Pep Guardiola – as detailed in I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He spearheaded Milan’s charge to the Serie A title in 2010/11, but it was after the age of 30 that Ibrahimovic really kicked his goalscoring to the next level. His second year with Milan, during which he turned 30, was the first time in his career that Ibrahimovic surpassed 30 goals in all competitions.

He continued that prolific form during four years at Paris Saint-Germain and then hit 28 in his first season at Manchester United, which was cut short by serious injury.

Ibrahimovic’s career appeared to be winding down when he opted to join LA Galaxy at the age of 36 in 2018, scoring almost a goal per game in two seasons with the MLS club. But he wound up re-joining Milan in early 2020, chipping in with goals, albeit on reduced playing time, and contributing to the club winnings its first Serie A title in 11 years at the end of the 2021/22 campaign.

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“I have so many memories and lived so many emotions in here, the first time I arrived here you gave me happiness. The second time love,” he said on the pitch on Sunday in a message directed specifically at Milan fans.

“I want to thank my family, everyone close to me, for their patience. I want to thank my second family, the players. I want to thank (AC Milan head coach Stefano) Pioli and his staff for the responsibility you have given me. I want to thank the managers for the opportunity.

“But most important of all: from my heart I want to thank you fans. You welcomed me with open arms, you made me feel at home. I will be a Milan fan for life. The time has come to say goodbye to football, but not to you. I have too many emotions that are passing through me. See you around, if you’re lucky. Forza Milan and goodbye”.

With 62 international goals for Sweden, Ibrahimovic retires as the country’s all-time leading scorer. His 122 caps also places him sixth on the appearance list, having made his debut in 2001. He retired from Sweden duty after Euro 2016, but made a comeback five years later ahead of 2020, only missing the tournament because of injury and made his final appearance in March.

Ibrahimovic played at his first World Cup in 2002 and went to six major tournaments in total.

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