It was thought to be eternal on a field. But he said stop this Sunday at 41. After a season totally weighed down by a knee injury, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has formalized the end of his career. The Swedish striker is officially retiring from the sport and it was in tears that he announced it after the final whistle of the match AC Milan - Hellas Verona. "It's time to say goodbye to football, not just to you. There are too many emotions now, go Milan and goodbye," he said on the pitch at the San Siro stadium.
This great footballer has played for the most prestigious clubs on the planet such as Juventus Turin, AC Milan, Inter, FC Barcelona and Manchester United. The first huge star of the QSI era, Ibra wore the Parisian jersey for four seasons (2012-2016) winning numerous trophies (four league titles, two France Cups, three League Cups) thanks to his 156 goals and 61 assists in 180 appearances in all competitions. Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains the third top scorer in PSG's history (behind Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani). It was he who took Paris to the next level, both nationally and internationally.
But Ibra is not just a football star. He's just a star. Indeed, we cannot dissociate the man and the international striker raised as a football legend, even if he has never won a Ballon d'Or. Sure of himself, bordering on arrogance and sometimes contempt, the Swedish giant has been able to play on his image, from Milan to Manchester via Paris, and use it in his relationship with the media, the public and sponsors.
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Between provocations and boasting, the color is announced as soon as he enters the professional circuit. In 1999, at the age of 18, Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed his first contract with FC Malmö (Swedish D1). It is with these words that the child of the forgotten city of Rosengard introduces himself to his teammates: "Remember my name and my face. My name is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and I will become the best football player in the world." His punchlines made him an extraordinary man. He also leaves behind an outspokenness and a substantial amount of statements often put at the service of his ego.
His arrival in Paris made him move into a new sphere as well as the Parisian club. The capital club had 1.3 million fans on Facebook before exceeding the 20 million mark during the passage of the Swede. The latter has been a lucrative brand for PSG. Main partners of the Parisian club at the time, Nike and Fly Emirates have multiplied by five their annual investment, estimated at 25 million euros. The Ligue 1 star even had his own neologism in the Swedish dictionary. The verb "zlataner", coined in France, arrived in its country of origin a decade ago and is on the list of neologisms noted by the very official Language Council.
At the time, the term coined by the Guignols de l'info on the Canal + channel had been taken up by Swedish correspondents in Paris, fascinated by the popularity of the character in France. It means "to take charge of something with vigor, to dominate on and off the field."
"This country does not deserve PSG"
His safe and off-field behavior is scrutinized. One day, after a match lost in Bordeaux with several contentious situations, his controversial sentence will even raise part of the political class. "I've been playing football for 15 years and I've never seen a referee like this. In this country. This country does not deserve PSG. His time in Los Angeles (2018-2020) further increased his global popularity. "Zlatan plays a lot of his character even if he sometimes abuses it," said his former teammate Mickaël Ciani.
In the twilight of his sporting career, there was already speculation about his post-football future. Many saw him embracing an acting career. It happened earlier than expected with his participation in the last Asterix and Obelix, the Middle Kingdom. "We were looking for someone with presence and arrogance," said director Guillaume Canet to explain the choice of the Swedish giant in the casting of his film. Asked recently about his reconversion, the former Parisian announced that he did not think to leave the world of football. One thing is certain: in football or not, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will always be talked about in the future.