Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic has announced his retirement from a glittering soccer career at the age of 41, leaving Italy’s Serie A as the league’s oldest-ever goal scorer.
The star striker made the announcement following his team AC Milan’s season finale 3-1 victory over Hellas Verona on Sunday.
“It’s time to say goodbye to football, but not to you,” an emotional Ibrahimovic told the Rossoneri fans at the San Siro stadium.
The club had previously announced it would hold a brief ceremony to bid farewell to the enigmatic star as his contract would not be renewed at the end of this month.
“The first time I arrived you gave me happiness, the second time, you gave me love,” Ibrahimovic said. “You welcomed me with open arms, you made me feel at home and I will be a Milanista my entire life.”
Ibrahimovic played for nine clubs during his 24-year career, scoring 561 goals for club and country, according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.
He retires as Sweden’s all-time leading goal scorer with 62 goals in 121 international matches. He retired from international football after Euro 2016 but returned for Sweden’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign in 2021.
Ibrahimovic told a news conference Sunday that he would rest a little before deciding what to do next.
“For the moment, I just want to take some time and enjoy what I’ve done,” he said. “It’s not right to make decisions in a hurry, there’s too much emotion right now. I want to take the summer off, reflect and then we’ll see.”
The Swede made his professional debut in his home country with Malmö FF in 1999 before moving to the Netherlands to play for Ajax two years later. Ibrahimovic won the Eredivisie twice and the KNVB Cup in 2002.
Following his spell at the Dutch club, Ibrahimovic went on to play for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.
In his first spell in Italy, the Swede won two Serie A titles with Juventus, that would later be vacated due to the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. A move to Inter Milan in 2006 saw Ibrahimovic capture three league titles.
Ibrahimovic left Italy to join Spanish giants Barcelona in 2009, where he won the La Liga title in his lone season with the Catalan club. His stint in Spain was short-lived as he was loaned to AC Milan in 2010, in a move made permanent in 2011.
In 2012, Ibrahimovic joined Paris Saint-Germain where he scored 113 goals while winning 12 trophies – including the domestic quadruple on two occasions. Despite never winning the elusive Champions League title, the striker helped English Premier League side Manchester United capture a Europa League victory in 2017.
After joining MLS side LA Galaxy in 2018, where he scored two stunning goals on his debut, the charismatic striker returned for a second spell with AC Milan in early 2020, helping the Italian side win the Scudetto last season.
Despite only playing in four matches this past season due to injuries, Ibrahimovic became the oldest goal scorer in Serie A history at 41 years and 166 days old in AC Milan’s 3-1 defeat against Udinese in March.