Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a striker for Sweden and AC Milan, announced on Sunday that he had made the decision to retire from football.
After a season marred by injuries, the 41-year-old’s Milan contract will not be renewed at the end of June, ending a remarkable and successful career.
Yet, Ibrahimovic later uncovered in a news gathering that nobody knew the enormous declaration he was going to drop.
He stated, “Even my family didn’t know, because I wanted that everyone heard it at the same time when I announced it.”
During his two stints at Milan, Ibrahimovic made 163 appearances and scored 93 goals. He will be back in January 2020. Last year, he helped Milan win the Serie A title, their second league trophy.
On the sidelines, the Milan fans unfurled a massive banner that read “Godbye” and chanted his name while the prolific striker, who scored 561 goals for club and country during his career, had tears in his eyes. Ibrahimovic gave the fans kisses and cupped his hands in the shape of hearts.
After the game, he was honored with a special ceremony in which the Milan staff and players presented him with a guard of honor as he left the field.
After Milan’s season-ending 3-1 victory over Hellas Verona, he told the San Siro crowd, “I say goodbye to football, but not to you.”
The striker began his playing career in 1999 with Malmo FF before moving to Ajax Amsterdam in 2001 to begin a career that has taken him to top European clubs like Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan, and Milan.
After having surgery on his knee last year, Ibrahimovic struggled with injuries and only made four appearances for Milan this season.
“I have so many memories and emotions inside this stadium,” he said. “The first time I arrived you gave me happiness, the second time you gave me love.
“I want to thank my family. I want to thank my second family: the players. I want to thank the coach and his staff for the responsibility, I want to thank the directors for the opportunity. Last but not least, from my heart, I want to thank you fans.”
Ibrahimovic, Sweden’s unequaled top scorer with 62 objectives in 121 matches, quit the public group after Euro 2016 yet returned in 2021 for their fruitless World Cup qualifying effort. He scored the most goals in his career with PSG, scoring 156 times in 180 games. In his 55 games for the LA Galaxy in MLS, he scored 53 times.
With a grin and his usual flamboyance, Ibrahimovic ended his speech.
He said: “It’s too difficult, there are so many emotions going through me now. But I will say, ‘I’ll see you around, if you’re lucky.’
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