The sport of soccer just got a little less exciting. Zlatan Ibrahimović has, according to multiple sources, announced his retirement from professional soccer following his departure from AC Milan. Over the course of his career — which began at hometown club Malmö FF and included stints at Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona — he developed a reputation as one of the best players of his generation and as someone whose skills actually justified his outsized personality.
Upon departing AC Milan, fans held up signs reading “Godbye Zlatan Ibrahimovic!” When he announced he would leave PSG, he wrote, “I came like a king, left like a legend.” And when he departed Manchester United for the Los Angeles Galaxy, he took out a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times reading, “Dear Los Angeles, You’re welcome.”
And then he did this in his first game for the Galaxy.
This wasn’t the only instance where he scored a goal in a way that made observers wonder if Zlatan controlled time and space. There’s also the time he pulled off a 30-yard bicycle kick goal against England. Watching footage of this is literally jaw-dropping. It’s one thing to attempt a shot like that when a keeper is that far off their line; it’s another to do so as a bicycle kick.
I saw Zlatan play in person exactly once, when PSG played an International Champions Cup match at Red Bull Arena. What was interesting about that match was the way that Zlatan moved with the rest of the team, one uniformed player among 11 on the pitch. And then, at one point, there was an opening and he was simply there — standing precisely where he needed to be. And, of course, he scored.
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Not all of Zlatan’s pronouncements were as enjoyable to take in, such as his 2021 criticism of LeBron James for addressing politics. But overall, Zlatan’s extraordinary career and outsized personality will make for an impressive legacy in the game — made even more so by the fact that he continued playing at the highest levels of the sport until the age of 41. He was a truly singular player on the pitch — with all that that implies.