AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic turns 40 today, making him only the 22nd player in Serie A history to be active after his 40th birthday. Of the other 21, only thirteen were outfield players. Ibrahimovic remains at a higher level than these players for a number of reasons.
Throughout his illustrious career, Swedish great Ibrahimovic has never been far from the headlines as he has traveled the world leaving indelible marks of his greatness wherever he goes.
In January 2020, the striker returned to Italy’s Serie A after a seven-and-a-half-year absence from the competition to an AC Milan side that, frankly, was disappointing. On his arrival, the club was in 11th place and had little to look forward to. Ibrahimovic is credited with the mentality at the club with his infectious self-confidence which took them to sixth place in the 2019/20 season and a title fight that finished in 2nd place in the 2020/21 season.
In terms of numbers, Ibrahimovic is one of the best strikers of all time, with 565 goals in 954 appearances for club and country. He also provided 216 assists, bringing his total goalscoring contribution to 781. Ibrahimovic contributes to 0.82 goals per game in which he plays. He is the third highest scoring active player at the moment, behind only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Bosnian-born Swede is Sweden’s top scorer with 62 goals and held the scoring record at Paris Saint-Germain until Edinson Cavani surpassed his record in his last season with the club.
While many of his biggest critics and opponents on the field have spoken out against his abrasive nature and arrogance, his teammates have spoken of him with great gusto over the years. AC Milan striker Ante Rebic said: “We have one leader on the bench, the coach and another on the pitch, Zlatan.”
Although not in top condition, 40-year-old Ibrahimovic has played 38 games for AC Milan since his return to the club, scoring a whopping 26 goals. For someone who returned to Europe at the age of 38, he was expected to play a much lesser role than he currently does, but he has proven to be a talisman in AC Milan’s current line-up.
While his status as a national hero and legend is intact, it is also notable that the striker was recalled to the Swedish national team after a five-year hiatus prior to Euro 2020, but an injury prevented him from taking part in the tournament in the summer .
Despite being currently out with an Achilles tendon injury, the striker still manages to keep himself in the best shape as he hopes to score his first FIFA World Cup goal in Qatar in 2022 at the age of 41. Ibrahimovic was quoted a few days ago as saying “My head is fine, but my body is getting old, it doesn’t always keep up [the head], and it’s a problem. This year I have to listen to my body, every little signal it sends me.”
Ibrahimovic’s advanced age means that one of the greatest strikers of his generation would soon hang up his shoes, and we must cherish every moment of him on the pitch.
Seven countries, nine clubs, 22 years and 500 goals later, the legend of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still growing even at the age of 40; he just keeps going.