It would not surprise me if Zlatan’s self-belief is the reason his body allows him to continue providing elite-level football skills heading into his forties. But defying the “norm” and remaining at the top of his game is something to behold, something that will etch his name into the soccer history books.
A future/current legend turning forty years of age this coming October, Zlatan is not spending his time at a lower-level club looking at retirement but instead sitting in first place of the Serie A with twelve goals in eight appearances. But where did it all start, and will it ever end?
The Domestic Beginning
Zlatan began a professional career in his native country of Sweden; the year was 1999 and Malmo had found a teenage sensation before they could even realize it.
It was not until Zlatan moved to the Netherlands before his name began to attract attention. During his four seasons spent playing for Ajax, he accumulated forty-eight goals from 110 appearances. Following his coming-out party in Holland, Zlatan made his first appearance in the Serie A when featuring 92 fixtures for Juventus across two seasons, scoring twenty-six goals.
Zlatan had found a home in Italy, and his goal-scoring was only becoming more effective. He spent another three seasons on Italian soil with Inter Milan, scoring 66 goals in 117 games.
A short spell for Barcelona was the end of Zlatan’s Serie A run, but home is where the heart is, and it was not long before AC Milan hired his services on loan. During his 46 fixtures at Barcelona, he still managed to score 22 goals, and once AC Milan had collected him on loan, he scored another 22 goals in 44 appearances.
An impressive run led AC Milan to sign Zlatan full-time, making it the third club in Italy that he had competed for. Perhaps the pinnacle of his professional career, scoring 35 goals through 44 games drawn massive interest in the Swede. And the record-breaking continued in France.
Paris Saint Germain acquired Zlatan, and his superstardom was complete. The striker netted more goals than any other club and continued to make headlines with his arrogant, yet sarcastic and humorous personality. Zlatan scored 156 goals in 180 games for PSG and during his final season (2016), he managed to bruise the goal netting 50 times within 51 match appearances. This remains as Zlatan’s most favorable goal scoring season to date.
Into his mid-thirties, an aging Zlatan headed to the English Premier League and found a home with Manchester United. Critics did not expect the same energy from the Swede as he proved once again why you should never doubt his abilities. Twenty-nine goals scored in 53 games made him another United hero amongst the likes of Eric Cantona, Robin Van Persie & Ronaldo.
With each new club and another year added to his age, the doubt only grows bigger. Leaving Manchester United for LA Galaxy, it was “inevitable” that Zlatan was slowing down. Fifty-three goals scored in 58 appearances for the LA Galaxy drawn the sports icon back to familiar territory.
AC Milan 2020 and Beyond
Third times a charm, Zlatan signed with AC Milan in January 2020 and has already scored 22 goals in 25 fixtures. His squad leads the Serie A with twenty games into the season and Zlatan is a top-four goal scorer with 12 goals.
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) January 22, 2021
The most impressive statistic surrounding his goal-scoring this season would be that he has made less than half the appearances of the goal scorers currently above him. A minor injury forced Zlatan to the sidelines in late 2020, priced at 10/1 to be the Serie A top goalscorer, it’s hard to ignore what the top online sportsbooks have to offer.
Some will argue that Italian football’s current state is the sole reason for Zlatan’s aging success. Give Zlatan his credit, the more doubt surrounding him seems to elevate his professional career, and none of us can predict his demise.
Zlatan is the type of character to retire as the leagues’ top goalscorer is 50, throwing a middle finger in the air.
During his professional career, Zlatan Ibrahimović has won 13 league titles, 1 Europa League Trophy, several domestic cups, 10 Super Cups/Community Shields, 1 UEFA Super Cup and 1 FIFA Club World Cup. This list is incomplete; the Swedish footballing hero has yet to discuss retirement.
Approaching 40 he is still scoring goals and speaking his mind, I’m sure he will share his feelings on retirement when the times right but for now, expect the goals to continue.