Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of AC Milan and Sweden, announced his retirement from sport on Sunday.
The 41-year-old’s contract with Milan ends at the end of June and will not be extended after an injury-plagued season that has forced him to call it quits on a great and successful career.
However, Ibrahimovic subsequently announced in a press conference that no one was aware of the huge revelation he was going to make.
“Even my family didn’t know, because I wanted to make sure that when I announced it, everyone heard it at the same time,” he said.
Ibrahimovic scored 93 goals in 163 games for Milan across two periods. He returned in January 2020 and helped Milan win Serie A last season, his second league championship with the Rossoneri.
The prolific striker, who scored 561 goals for club and country in his career, cried on the sidelines as Milan supporters unfurled a large banner at one end that said “Godbye” and sang his name. Ibrahimovic blew kisses to the supporters while cupping his hands in the form of a heart.
After the game, there was also a special ceremony honouring him, with the Milan players and staff forming a guard of honour as he came out onto the field.
“I say goodbye to football, but not to you,” he remarked after being feted by the San Siro fans after Milan’s 3-1 season-ending triumph against Hellas Verona.
The striker began his professional career with Malmo FF in 1999 and departed for Ajax Amsterdam in 2001 before going on to play for famous European clubs like as Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan, and Milan.
Ibrahimovic has suffered with injuries this season, making just four appearances for Milan after having knee surgery last year.
“I have so many emotions and memories inside this stadium,” he added. “The first time I arrived, you brought me happiness; the second time, you brought me love.”I’d want to thank my family. I’d want to express my gratitude to my second family: the players. I want to thank the coach and his crew for the chance and the directors for the responsibility. Last but not least, I want to thank you fans from the bottom of my heart.”
With 62 goals in 121 appearances, Ibrahimovic is Sweden’s all-time leading scorer. He left the national team after Euro 2016, but returned in 2021 for their disappointing World Cup qualification campaign. He has the most goals in his career with PSG, scoring 156 times in 180 appearances, while hitting the back of the net 53 times in 55 matches with the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer.
Ibrahimovic finished his remarks with a grin and his trademark flamboyance.
“It’s too difficult, there are so many emotions going through me right now,” he remarked. ‘I’ll see you around, if you’re fortunate,’ I’ll say.