Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggled to hold back his tears after announcing his decision to retire from football at the age of 41 following AC Milan’s final game of the season on Sunday. The iconic Swede, who played for two seasons in the Premier League with Manchester United, is finally set to hang up his boots after a remarkable career that spanned across four decades and saw him collect domestic titles with five different clubs.
Ibrahimovic had already played his final game for the Serie A giants as he was injured and not involved in the squad as Milan beat Verona 3-1 at the San Siro. It had been reported he was set to leave at the end of his contract after struggling with injuries this season.
But after the striker was seen wiping away tears before the game, it soon became apparent the curtain would be brought down on a glittering 24-year career as he waved farewell to his playing career.
Ibrahimovic – who often refers to himself as simply ‘Zlatan’ – was given a hero’s farewell by the Milan faithful, club directors and his team-mates after the final whistle. And in a rare show of vulnerability, Ibrahimovic looked emotional as he gave his farewell speech to the San Siro crowd.
“So many memories and emotions inside this stadium,” the 41-year-old said. “The first time I arrived you gave me happiness, the second time, you gave me love.
“I want to thank my family and those close to me for their patience. I want to thank my second family. The players, the coach and his staff for the responsibility they gave me. I want to thank the directors for the opportunity they gave me.
“Last but not least, from my heart, I want to thank you, fans. You welcomed me with open arms and I will be a Milanista my entire life. It’s time to say goodbye to football, but not to you. It’s too difficult, there are too many emotions.
“I’ll see you around if you are lucky. Forza Milan and goodbye.”
However, he decided to leave Milan in 2012 when newly-rich PSG came calling and in Ligue 1, Ibrahimovic established himself as a Parisian legend. He scored a remarkable 156 goals in 180 appearances, becoming their all-time record goalscorer in just four season, before joining Jose Mourinho at Manchester United in 2016 on a free transfer.
The striker scored 28 goals in his first season at the club but barely featured in 2017-18 and was allowed to join LA Galaxy in the United States.
He returned to Milan for a third and final spell in 2019 and proved to be a useful squad player before injuries limited him to just four league games this season.
In his career, Ibrahimovic bagged 511 goals in 866 games, in addition to scoring 62 goals in 122 caps for his country. He leaves football with 11 domestic league titles to his name and remains the only player to have scored in the Champions League with six different teams.