He has just turned 36 and any other footballer in his situation would be thinking of retirement, more so after his serious injury. That is not the case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The towering Swede is a year older and he spends a chunk of his time meticulously looking after his knee. No lavish celebrations. Manchester United await in January and he expects to live up to the new challenge with eminence.
He became a legend in Paris and everybody thought he would quietly withdraw to the lucrative leagues of China, Qatar or the United States. Instead, he joined Mourinho’s Manchester United, a challenge equal to the myth. He succeeded, until his knee gave in against Anderlecht.
‘I came to the Premier League and everyone thought it would not be possible but like always I make them eat their balls’, Ibrahimovic said back in January, as he went on to score over 20 goals and won everything but the Premier League in his debut season at Old Trafford.
But the chip on his shoulder is not the English competition. He wants the Champions League. The biggest trophy missing in the cabinet of a player who talks about himself in the third person. Years of footballing magic have given him sufficient reasons to consider himself a demigod.
In 15 appearances in the top club competition in Europe, Zlatan has only reached the semi-finals once. He did so with Barcelona against an Inter Milan side he had departed the year before. That is Ibrahimovic’s particular curse which has followed him throughout his footballing career.
His doctors have urged him to take it slowly, stating he should not rush his return. But at the same time they pointed out his priviledged physical condition: ‘He has the knees of a 15-year-old boy and not a footballer who has been in fierce physical competition for so many years’. The teenager who turns 36 and still has one more show to perform.