ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC TURNS 40! HOW THE LEGENDARY SWEDISH STRIKER IS REDEFINING THE CONCEPT OF TIME AND AGE IN FOOTBALL
Ac Milan and Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic turns 40. The enigmatic striker is strong as ever and influencing games whenever he plays. Ibrahimovic developed into a mature head and is now guiding his young teammates at Milan. The Swede could add one more feather to his cap if he could lead his Milan side to the Scudetto. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is currently on the comeback trail from a minor injury and would lineup for Sweden in the upcoming international break.
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) October 3, 2021
There used to be a time when professional footballers used to hang up their boots in their early 30s. But that age is gone now. With sheer will and determination and of course, the advancements in fitness and injury recoveries, players are having longer careers. They’re being in physically better shape than ever before in their later career. Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are particularly redefining the limits of a professional footballer.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic now entered his 22nd season as a professional footballer. He broke onto the scene at his native Malmo as an 18-year-old. Ever since he has travelled to many countries and played for many top teams. Wherever Zlatan goes, he leaves a bit of his legacy and history there. The Swede is an excellent entertainer both on and off the field. His antics and his love for himself make him one of the most loved players of this generation and gained him a demi-god level presence.
FootTheBall pays a small tribute to Zlatan Ibrahimovic to celebrate his 40th birthday.
A STAR IS BORN
Contrary to the popular and long-running Zlatan Ibrahimovic jokes, Zlatan didn’t have a smooth childhood. It is hard to believe that Zlatan is born in the same year as the Raiders of the Lost Ark’s release. As he himself described in his autobiography, his parents got divorced when he was only two years old. He didn’t have a rosy childhood and was mostly a bully in his school.
But at the age of six, Zlatan first kicked the ball. Thank the footballing gods that they impressed him and made him choose them. Thus began the story of a demi-god who would go on to become the most outspoken and most talked about footballer.
The athletic built of Zlatan made him a dangerous centre-forward. Initially, he was just a shy and lanky teenager. But as soon as he put some muscle on his frame, he turned into a monster on the pitch. He caught the eyes of the European elite while playing for Malmo. Though they were relegated from the Swedish top flight in his first season, Zlatan helped them win promotion instantly. He claimed he turned down Arsenal in 2001 because he doesn’t do auditions as Arsene Wenger asked him to.
Zlatan rose to prominence with Ajax after his move in 2001. The Swede was inserted into the starting lineup by Ronald Koeman and he never looked back again. He had the tendency to score a lot of goals as well as otherworldly goals. A move to another European powerhouse in Juventus materialized in 2004.
After a flashy start to his Juventus career, a changing role in the attack and controversy fizzled it out. He left for title rivals Inter Milan almost instantly. He played a key role in winning a hattrick of Scudettos at the San Siro. Zlatan won golden boots as wells as footballer of the year awards during that spell.
It earned him a move to Barcelona where he had a bittersweet spell. A fast start and a dip resulted in a rift with manager Pep Guardiola. The relationship further deteriorated and Zlatan was sent on loan to Milan.
Having joined Inter’s city rivals Milan, he had to tread carefully. Zlatan lead the red part of Milan to a scudetto instantly and spent another season at the San Siro winning the Supercoppa Italiana.
In 2012, the move of Zlatan’s life arrived. With a heavy heart, he left Milan, a city that loved him and worshipped him like a god.
“I came like a king, I left like a legend.” This might be one of Zlatan’s iconic statements. But it aptly summarizes his spell in the Parisian capital. Zlatan was already 31 years old when he arrived in Parc des Princes. There were doubts over his ability and fitness. But when doubters get going, Zlatan goes over the roof. He was unplayable while turning up for the Parisians at times.
Zlatan enjoyed the best scoring spells in Paris as he led them to the league title every season. His form was carried into international football as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored all four goals against England including an incredible overhead kick from outside the box that won the Puskas award.
He became PSG’s all-time leading goal scorer by the time he left in 2016. He declared that he wouldn’t sign a contract extension and would leave the club in 2016. Zlatan was given a special tribute during the 10th minute of his final league match to celebrate his number 10 jersey number.
At 34 years of age and on the back of his best-ever seasons, Zlatan thought it wasn’t time yet. He felt he had more in him and decided to join Manchester United. It was his first time in the Premier League and pundits felt that he was a spent force at 34 years of age. These taunts only fueled Zlatan’s rage as he unleashed another monster season. Under Jose Mourinho, he scored freely in Manchester and was involved in 37 goals in 46 appearances as they won the Europa League.
Zlatan Ibrahimović was directly involved in 37 goals in 46 games for Man Utd during the 2016-17:
◉ 28 goals
◉ 9 assists
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 26, 2021
En route to the Europa League trophy, Zlatan suffered a major ACL injury in 2017. Many feared that this was the end of Zlatan as the injury takes a lot of strength to come back mentally and physically. Fortunately, those are nothing but bread and butter to Zlatan. He made a nonchalant comeback in 2018. But he wanted regular game time and moved to the MLS
AGING LIKE FINE WINE
You might be forgiven for thinking that Zlatan was finished. A 37-year old arriving in the United States is expected to entertain the people. Zlatan was the best of both worlds as he scored countless goals and gave unlimited entertainment to the Los Angeles crowd.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his grand arrival for LA Galaxy with two world-class strikes just minutes into his debut off the bench. And it just began the floodgates. Zlatan scored for fun and broke the club’s record of highest goals in a single season. He was included for two consecutive seasons in the MLS Team of the Season and MLS All-Star Team.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic compared himself to a Ferrari amongst Fiat’s in the MLS. He felt that the challenge was too little for him and wanted to take on a bigger one.
Surely not? How can it even happen? How can Zlatan Ibrahimovic come back into a top-five league from the MLS and hit the ground running?
Milan team were crying out for a leader to lift them from their mediocrity. Their god heard it and crossed the Atlantic to see to it personally. Zlatan’s return in the second half of the 2019/20 season took Europe by storm. He scored 10 goals and assisted five times in 18 appearances as Milan got into Europa League places out of nowhere.
He said he wanted to win the league with Milan. Zlatan started the new season as he wanted to go by. With 11 goals in 9 games, he led his Milan side to the top of the league table in the last season. But a series of niggling injuries limited him to just 19 appearances throughout the campaign.
Milano never had a king, they have a GOD pic.twitter.com/LmQxt0XnwG
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) October 18, 2020
After all, father time is catching with him as enters the fifth decade of his life. But a determined Zlatan already has one goal to his name this campaign. He’s on his way to full fitness and you could only imagine what he would unleash once he’s fully fit.
Humility and modesty are not the words that could be used while describing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For the outspoken legend, age is just a number. Love him or hate him (because there’s no middle ground with him), he’ll be back and scoring regularly once again in his 40s.
Once again, happy 40th birthday Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we can surely expect another 10 top-class seasons from you, right?