Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic going to retire at the end of the season?
The Milan striker reportedly only trains one day a week and is carrying a persistent knee injury, leading to speculation he may call it a day.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will celebrate his 41st birthday in October but the AC Milan veteran has not ruled out another season at the top level despite a persistent knee injury that has limited his input in 2021-22 as the Rossoneri close in on a first Scudetto since 2010-11. The veteran Swede was a member of that title-winning team and his presence at Milan since his return to San Siro in 2019 is as much about his experience and dressing room leadership in a very young side as his goals – although with 33 in 59 Serie A appearances over the past three campaigns he has hardly been a spectator either.
However, there are signs that this could be Zlatan’s last hurrah. Sky Italia reported that the Swede only trains one day a week with the squad and spends the remainder working on a strict regime for his knee then attends tactical sessions before fixtures. His ability to play 90 minutes is also waning: the last time Ibrahimovic completed a game was in January and over his last seven appearances he has not played more than 23 minutes, with four substitute cameos lasting just 1′, 3′, 6′ and 7′.
But he continues to be effective, providing the assist for Sandro Tonali’s vita stoppage time winner away at Lazio two weeks ago. In total Ibrahimovic has managed only 11 starts in Serie A this season and 988 minutes overall, but has still scored eight times and provided three assists. According to La Gazzetta, Ibrahimovic and the Milan hierarchy will sit down at the end of the season to discuss a possible one-year renewal, but the player will be expected to accept a huge salary cut on the €7m he currently earns per season.
Zlatan: “I decide when to stop”
The question remains whether Ibrahimovic is prepared to carry on punishing his knee and playing a bit-part role. It is unclear whether there is any permanent fix for the persistent inflammation in his knee, or if at the age of 40 he sees any benefit in terms of his playing career in undergoing surgery, if that is the answer.
Ibrahimovic has always maintained he will retire on his own terms – “I decide when to stop, just like I decide that the yellow ball will hit you” he said in a YouTube video last week, before launching a yellow football at the camera lens – and has previously stated he will only hang up his boots “when I see someone better than me.” He may, though, decide to go out on a high at the end of the season: Milan are two points ahead of Inter in the race for the Scudetto with two games left to play. Even if Ibrahimovic does decide to call it a day on the pitch, it may not signal the end of his time at San Siro: it seems inevitable Milan will offer him a coaching role to continue his input on Stefano Pioli’s budding side from the training pitches.