‘Do me a favour and celebrate like champions because Italy belongs to AC Milan.’
That’s what Zlatan Ibrahimovic told his team mates after the Rossoneri won their first scudetto in 11 years at the weekend. And as champions go, they don’t come much bigger than the 40-year-old, who, despite his advancing years, is very much enjoying his second spell at AC Milan.
His career has taken in some of the biggest clubs in the world, and included some truly breath-taking moments of pure, unadulterated genius. His is a show reel that you can waste hours devouring.
Let’s take a deep dive into his footballing life with an examination of Ibra’s career in kits.
Malmo – 1999-2001
Zlatan joined his hometown club as a teenager and made it into the first team for the 1999 season – but it was a campaign that would end in relegation. A year later, Ibrahimovic’s goals had helped the Swedish giants back into the top flight. And it was then that the suitors came calling – most famously Arsene Wenger, who even sent an Arsenal shirt to striker.
Ajax – 2001-2004
However, Holland would be Ibra’s destination, joining Ajax for around £8 million. Under new coach Ronald Koeman, Zlatan flourished, leading Ajax to the Eredivisie title in 2002. An early indication of his insane talent came in 2004 when he scored one of the greatest goals Dutch football has ever witnessed, taking on about 42 players before rolling the ball into the NAC Breda net. Lovely stuff.
Juventus – 2004-2006
A switch to Serie A and Turin came in 2004, where Ibra initially settled, scoring 16 times in his first season on the way to the scudetto. However, his second season was less effective and, when Juventus were relegated as part of the Calciopoli scandal, the Swede engineered a move away.
Inter – 2006-2009
Three magical seasons at Inter followed, where Ibrahimovic cemented his reputation as one of the game’s greatest strikers. The Nerazzuri won the title in three consecutive seasons, with Ibra smashing in 57 goals in only 88 games, including a sensational backheel against Bologna in October 2008. By 2009, his heroics at the San Siro had alerted the attentions of Barcelona…
Barcelona – 2009-2011
"It started well but then Messi started to talk. He wanted to play in the middle, not on the wing, so the system changed from 4–3–3 to 4–5–1. I was sacrificed and no longer had the freedom on the pitch I need to succeed."
It’s fair to say that his time at the Nou Camp was a disaster. An enigmatic, unpredictable renegade never seemed like the right fit for Pep Guardiola’s exceptionally well-drilled Barca team and so it proved. After Inter knocked the Catalans out of the Champions League, Ibra famously shouted at Pep: ‘You haven’t got any balls!’. There was no coming back from that, was there?
AC Milan – 2010-2012
Initially joining for the 2010/11 season on loan, Ibra was back to his imperious best in Milan. His most deadly season came in 2011/12 when – wearing one of the great Milan jerseys – he scored 28 Serie A goals in only 32 games.
PSG – 2012-2016
Cash rich PSG needed a superstar and there was only one man that fitted the bill. Goals followed. Lots of goals. An incredible 113 in only 122 games – 38 of which came in a single season. Before his final game, Zlatan tweeted: ‘I came like a king, left like a legend’ – and it’s hard to argue with that assessment.
Man United – 2016-2018
As his career began to wind down, Zlatan chalked another super club off his list, joining Manchester United as a free agent. In his second season at Old Trafford, he became the first ever player to feature for seven clubs in the Champions League when he came on as a substitute in a 1–0 loss to Basel.
LA Galaxy – 2018/19
Who remembers Ibra’s debut in the MLS? All of us, that’s who. Coming on as a substitute in the inaugural El Trafico derby, Zlatan scored twice, one of which was a 45-yard half volley that was possibly the most Ibrahimovic goal ever. And in true Zlats style, he announced his departure with this tweet: ‘You wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome. The story continues... now go back to watch baseball.’ Quality.
AC Milan – 2020-Present
Initially returning on a six-month contract, Ibra has just completed his third season in his second spell for Milan – and shows no signs of finishing any time soon.
In December, Ibrahimović scored an acrobatic equalizer in stoppage-time in a 1–1 draw with Udinese, reaching the milestone of 300 career league goals across Europe's top five leagues – and in doing so becoming only the third player in the 21st century to achieve it (after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi).
Not bad for a boy from Malmo.