Can Zlatan Ibrahimovic Continue To Defy The Odds?

Ismail Ansar

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Can Zlatan Ibrahimovic Continue To Defy The Odds?

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has decided to continue playing for another season, recently signing a one-year contract extension which will keep the Swede at the San Siro past his 41st birthday.

After helping Milan to their first Scudetto since 2011 last season, it looked like the perfect way for Ibrahimovic to bow out from football – he had just helped his side to a league title for the first time in over a decade and he had the adoration of Milan fans – but ultimately, we will see the striker playing football in 2022-23 after the news of his new deal broke.

However, fans won’t be seeing Ibrahimovic in action until at least the New Year – the striker will miss the first half of next season due to the recovery time he will need after undergoing knee surgery in May – he is estimated to be out for around 7-8 months. But the fact that he has still been offered a new contract at the San Siro despite the fact he will be absent for many months shows how much Milan value Ibrahimovic.

Zlatan’s new deal does raise the question – if Ibrahimovic does return to action next season, then how long will he actually continue to play football for afterwards? Ibrahimovic is currently 40 years old and is still playing in one of Europe’s top-5 leagues, which is not only amazing in itself, but is also extremely rare.

Take into account the fact that Ibrahimovic has suffered a serious injury in recent years yet has still managed to carry on playing to a very respectable level, and it does look like Ibrahimovic could be playing at the top level for a few more years.

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The New Deal

The details of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s new contract have not been released, but sources close to the deal have said that the striker has accepted a massively reduced salary, and given that he will be unable to play until 2023, this makes a lot of sense.

In 2020/21, Ibrahimovic was the highest-paid player at Milan, earning an estimated €7m a year. But now, Ibrahimovic’s annual salary is now reported to be around €1m/€1.5m a year, but there are bonus clauses in the contract that will be activated depending on if the Swede hits certain targets - ultimately, it is estimated that his weekly wage is now somewhere between €15,000-€25,000 a week.

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Zlatan’s AC Milan Stats

Ibrahimovic is one of the best-scoring strikers of this generation, with over 500 career goals to his name having played for many of European football’s top clubs. 92 of those 500+ career goals have come for the Rossoneri, making him the 11th-highest scoring player in the club’s history.

Ever since rejoining the club in 2019, Ibrahimovic has been a consistent source of goals, with 10 league goals in 18 appearances in 2019/20, 15 league goals in 19 appearances the following season, and eight in 23 in an injury-riddled 2021/22 season.

Ultimately, Ibrahimovic’s second stint at the Italian side has seen him score 36 goals (33 in the league) in total. During his first spell at the club, Ibrahimovic scored 56 goals in all competitions across two seasons, with 42 of those goals coming in Serie A.

Overall, in 158 appearances, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 92 goals and registered 35 assists for AC Milan.

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Goals past 30 years of age

One stunning statistic regarding Ibrahimovic is that he has scored more goals since turning 30 years old (over 300) than he did in the years before his 30th birthday (232).

Up until his 30th birthday, Ibrahimovic scored 232 goals in 528 appearances, at a ratio of 0.44 strikes for every appearance made. He turned 30 on October 2011, and that was a season in which he scored 28 goals in Serie A, and seven goals in other competitions for a total of 35 goals.

He would then complete a transfer to PSG for the next season and ultimately spend the next four years in the French capital, scoring 156 goals in 180 appearances. In all competitions, the Swede scored 35 goals in 2012/13, 41 in 2013/14, 30 in 2014/15, and a stunning 50 goals in 2015/16.

Zlatan then moved to the Premier League with Manchester United, where he would score 29 goals in just over 50 games for the Red Devils, winning the Europa League and Carabao Cup. Ibrahimovic then confirmed a move to the MLS with LA Galaxy in 2018, and he would go on to score 22 goals in 27 appearances in his first season, and then scored 31 goals in 31 games in all competitions in his second season. He then returned to Europe with Milan in December 2019, scoring 36 goals in the two-and-a-half seasons since his return.

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Oldest active players in Europe

At 40 years of age, Ibrahimovic is currently one of the oldest active footballers in Europe, and he is part of a very small group of footballers who are still going strong at a similar age…

  • Goalkeeper Willy Caballero (40) - currently at Southampton
  • Goalkeeper Diego Lopez (40) - currently at Rayo Vallecano
  • Winger Joaquin (40) - currently at Real Betis
  • Goalkeeper Allan McGregor (40) – currently at Rangers
  • Striker Jorge Molina (40) - currently at Granada
  • Goalkeeper Joe Murphy (40) – currently at Tranmere
  • Striker Lee Casciaro (40) – currently at Lincoln Red Imps

Striker Ruben Castro (Malaga) and goalkeepers Gianluca Pegolo (Sassuolo), Antonio Narciso (Modena) and Alberto Pomini (SPAL) are all one year older than the players mentioned above, at 41, but the oldest active footballer in Europe currently is legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who at the age of 44, is playing for boyhood club Parma.

Amazingly, Buffon has recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at Parma until 2024, when he will be 46. We can only imagine that Buffon will retire then, but it is impossible to tell whether or not he will retire or if he could choose to carry on past that age.

Whilst Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a remarkably talented and resilient footballer, his recent injury problems may hinder any plans to play for as long as possible, but as we have seen in the past, Ibrahimovic has always overcome adversity and injury, and so do not be surprised if he does manage to carry on playing late into his 40s.

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