Zlatan Ibrahimovic retires from football and receives applause from players and AC Milan fans (official website, SerieA)
The football world is saying goodbye to a legend. AC Milan and Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has decided to end his football career and said goodbye to the pitch on Sunday. The 41-year-old's contract at AC Milan expires at the end of June and will not be renewed after an injury-plagued season, forcing him to end an extraordinary career.
After saying goodbye to the crowd in an emotional scene, Ibrahimovic revealed at a press conference that no one knew about the announcement and the big news he was about to make. "Even my family didn't know, because I wanted everyone to hear it at the same time when I announced it," he said, adding with a wink to reporters: "Now you'll have less work."
Thank you for everything. Zlatan (Photo by Getty Images, Francesco Scaccianoce)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic retires from football and thanks Milan's players (Photo by Getty Images, Marco Luzzani)
Ibrahimovic scored 93 goals in 163 appearances during two spells at Milan. He returned in January 2020 and helped AC Milan win the Serie A title last year - his second with the Rossoneri. "From tomorrow I will be a free man and start a new chapter in my life," he said, "I had some offers, that's true, but I told them that I had already decided to retire."
The Swedish scorer, who finished his career with 561 goals for clubs and the national team, couldn't hold back tears as AC Milan fans unfurled a huge banner reading "Goodbye" and chanted his name. Ibrahimovic clasped his heart-shaped hands and blew kisses to the fans. "When I saw the rain, I said to myself, 'God is sad too.' I looked like a zombie, I was nervous, but I put up with it."
There was also a special ceremony dedicated to him after the game, when AC Milan players and staff gave him a guard of honour when he stepped out onto the pitch. Some of the players wept. "I never lost my passion. When I came the second time, the actors were kids. And on the field, suddenly I saw everyone crying. The players, my family, my wife, the fans. I proved that Superman has a huge heart, everyone who knows me knows that."
AC Milan fans say goodbye to departing striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Photo by Getty Images, Marco Luzzani)
AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Photo by Getty Images, GABRIEL BOUYS)
"I say goodbye to football, but not to you," he said after being honoured by the San Siro crowd after Milan's 1-3 win over Verona in the season finale. Zlatan began his professional career at Malmö in 1999 and left for Ajax in 2001 - before embarking on a monumental, unforgettable career in which he left his mark on a host of leading European clubs including Manchester United, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Milan. Verona fans booed him during the farewell ceremony, and Zlatan said: "Keep whistling, seeing me is your biggest moment this season."
Unfortunately, Ibrahimovic has struggled with injuries and has made just four appearances this season for AC Milan, having undergone knee surgery last year. "I have so many memories and emotions inside this stadium," he said. "The first time I came you gave me happiness, the second time you gave me love.
"I want to thank my family. I want to thank my other family: the players. I want to thank the coach and his staff for the responsibility, I want to thank the managers for the opportunity. Last but not least, from the heart, I want to thank you fans."
"Fear is when you wake up in the morning and don't know what to do. From now on, the adrenaline will be different. I'll be in another world. I will miss the dressing room. I'm sorry I didn't play today, but it's okay, when I was in the US, I didn't think I could play in Europe again. I will miss the road to the stadium." Will he become a coach or manager? "I'll have to think about what I'm going to do. As a player you can express yourself, as a coach less. I don't think I'll leave football, but if I enter this world again, I'll have to start from scratch."
Ibrahimovic, Sweden's all-time top scorer with 62 goals in 121 games, left the national team after Euro 2016 but returned in 2021 for their unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign. He scored the most goals of his career at PSG, 156 times in 180 games, and the Los Angeles Galaxy found the net 53 times in his 55 games. "When I started out, I was compared to Marco van Basten," he said with a smile, "but now Marco is Marco, and Ibarra is Ibarra."
Ibrahimovic ended his speech with a smile and his characteristic flamboyant style. "It's too hard right now, there's so many emotions going through me right now," he said, "but I'll say one thing, 'I'll see you around, if you're lucky.'"
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