Sweden’s all-time record goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed his sensational return to international football at the age of 39, and he announced the move in a typically effervescent manner.
The AC Milan star initially called time on his international career after Sweden were dumped out of Euro 2016 in the group stage after plundering a remarkable 62 goals in 116 caps.
However, increasing evidence began to suggest that Zlatan appeared somewhat impervious to the ravages of time and now, just seven months from his 40th birthday, is set to make his international comeback – some five years since he called time on international career after Euro 2016 in France.
Ibrahimovic was confirmed in the Sweden squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Kosovo as the list was announced on Tuesday.
“Zlatan is still one of the world’s best forwards and is in my opinion by far Sweden’s best football player of all time. He has a great deal of experience that we in the national team will enjoy,” said Sweden manager Janne Andersson.
And, as you might have expected, Ibrahimovic confirmed his return to the international fold with typical pomp and ceremony – though some of the reaction was somewhat muted.
If you’re older than 10 go have a long hard look in the mirror.
— Will ⚽ (@Will7vdv) March 16, 2021
Sweden went the furthest they have ever been last world cup whilst you were sat at home talking in third person.
— Haz⚽⚽ (@hasnaingulzar7) March 16, 2021
“The return of the God,” wrote Zlatan on his Twitter page as he confirmed his comeback.
One fan noted his comeback by writing that “He doesn’t return to the national team, the national team returns to him“.
Another said that Sweden have enjoyed some of their best recent form, including at the last World Cup, without the influence of one of their greatest-ever players.
Ibrahimovic’s return comes amid a purple patch in the veteran’s career. He recently celebrated his 500th career goal, while also reminding Italian football fans that his age hasn’t stunted his potency in front of goal, scoring 24 goals in just 32 Serie A games since returning to the San Siro after a two-year stint in the MLS with L.A. Galaxy – including 14 strikes in 14 games this term.
The legendary forward made his international bow for Sweden as a 19-year-old – and would score a goal in his first competitive match against in a 2002 World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan.
He announced his intention to return to the international game in an interview in November of last year, after which Swedish coach Janne Anderson flew to Milan to discuss the matter – with news of Ibrahimovic’s return confirmed when his name was included in Anderson’s squad for upcoming games with Georgia and Kosovo.
Ibrahimovic had appeared close to an international return ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the player himself expressing an interest, but it was announced by Anderson in the April before the tournament that Ibrahimovic would not receive a call-up.
Zlatan subsequently blamed the Swedish media for his non-inclusion – but now, some three years later, the evergreen Ibrahimovic appears to have gotten his wish.
As he usually does.