May 16, 2024

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a mixture of his trademark bravado and rarely seen tears in his press conference, revealing when and why he decided to retire, even keeping it from Milan. ‘I saw it was raining and said: Even God is sad today.’

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The 42-year-old has barely been able to play this season due to a series of injuries, having undergone surgery on a long-standing knee problem in May 2022 just days after winning the Serie A title.

 

It was reported today that Milan would not be extending his contract, but that Monza were interested in offering him a new Serie A role, but instead he confirmed he is hanging up his boots for good.

 

“This was a very special day for me. I did not tell anyone I was leaving football. I just told the club we had to do something for the last game, but they didn’t know it was retirement,” said Ibrahimovic in a press conference at San Siro after his emotional announcement on the pitch.

 

“I thank the journalists for your patience, now you’ll have less work to do without me… From tomorrow, I am a free man from this world of football. It was a long career, really long, thank you to everyone who gave me the strength, the adrenaline and the emotion to continue.”

 

Having shed tears on the pitch, Ibra went back to his usual routine in the press room with that bone dry sense of humour.

 

“When I woke up this morning, it was raining. I said to myself: Even God is sad today.’ Even my family didn’t know what was happening today, I felt like a zombie. I wasn’t joking, I wasn’t talking. Just three months ago, I felt panic at the idea of retirement, but today I accept it and I feel ready. A little sad, obviously.”

 

The Swede let the tears flow on the pitch when saying goodbye and reveals what he was thinking at that moment.

 

“People think Ibra is Superman. Well, I am Superman, but I also have a big heart. I was looking around, trying to find a face that would give me strength, but everyone was crying! I looked at the players, they were crying. The fans were crying. I looked to my wife, I thought she’ll give me the strength to keep it together, but then she was crying more than anyone.”

 

He thanked Milan for representing his ‘second family’ after two different stints at the club, both of which resulted in the Scudetto, and confirmed this retirement really was not on his mind until very recently.

 

“I only said enough was enough in the last 10 days. I accepted that it would not end on the pitch. What I experienced today was so wonderful, a memory I will cherish for my whole life. It feels like my car only drives to Milanello and we need to find new destinations…

 

“There was advice from many, but I had to realise for myself the moment had arrived to say enough, to enjoy my private life and enjoy football in a different way. There were offers, but if someone has accepted the idea of stopping, the offers are no longer interesting.”

 

There was also a thought for his agent and close friend Mino Raiola, who died last year.

 

“I arrived with great responsibility, like a pilot guiding this team and I loved that. When I was in the USA, I did not intend to come back to Europe, but Mino convinced me. I was alone before, but I shared my life with Mino. His tragedy happened and it was never the same again.

 

“If he was here, I’d continue playing because he wanted the commission. Sorry, Mino, but it’s the truth!”

 

Stefano Pioli told the media that he had asked Ibrahimovic to join his staff some time ago, but that the striker did not see himself as a coach. Has that changed?

 

“For the moment, I just want to take some time and enjoy what I’ve done. It’s not right to make decisions in a hurry, there’s too much emotion right now. I want to take the summer off, reflect and then we’ll see.

 

“Being a coach or a director is a big responsibility. When you are a player, you can be yourself, but a coach is more limited. I cannot drive to work in a Ferrari as a coach. Well, maybe Ibra could… Let’s change those rules!

 

“I do not think about leaving football in general, but if I do, then I must start from scratch and climb the ladder. That does not mean I’ll be a top coach.”

 

When asked who could follow in his footsteps and become the new Ibrahimovic, the answer was inevitable.

 

“Impossible, there is only one Zlatan! As a child, they compared me to Marco van Basten, but he is who he is and I am who I am. There might be similarities, but I don’t think comparisons are right. I doubt we’d find another Zlatan with my ego…”

 

Yet the final thought let down that mask.

 

“I could not have dreamed of a night like this. From the first day, I felt at home with Milan, the old and the new version. When I leave here, I will miss it a great deal. Today, they dragged the real Ibrahimovic out.”

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