Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Retiring like this would be very sad for football

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles Galaxy (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles Galaxy (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images) /

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been one of the greatest football players of the 21st century so far; he has thrilled us, wowed us and made us laugh.

His injuries have always made us cry as well; when he hurt himself shortly after coming to Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimovic tirelessly worked to bring himself back to proper shape. When he was allowed to leave for another club, he went to the MLS where he demonstrated his vigor, crushing players much younger than he even nearing 40-years-of-age.

When he decided his time was up, he went back for the second half of this campaign with Milan, before play was suspended of course; I had even contemplated his future here myself, on more than one occasion. This unexpected injury changes everything however.

This newest injury, which reports suggest is likely a calf issue, could end the great Swede for good; if this is true, it is a dreadful way for his career to stop.  An innovation that stops what should be a farewell tour, wherever he would’ve choosen to play, that would’ve been as sweet as another great whose memory reminds me of Zlatan’s own; Kobe Bryant.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kobe Bryant, and what should’ve been

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While Zlatan likely won’t get his farewell tour this year, if ever, Kobe Bryant did before his retirement. With his subsequent, and untimely death earlier this year, it comes to mind faster than usual perhaps.

Bryant had dominated the league for nearly 15 years before injuries finally began to diminish the luster of one of the NBA’s brightest stars; this put an end to his chance to tie Michael Jordan for NBA Championships, and profoundly changed him I believe.

For the final years of his career, he would struggle with injuries while playing on mediocre to subpar Laker teams; he got his final moment in the NBA sun against the Jazz in his final regular season game, scoring over 60 points to lead the Lakers to a comeback victory; he was able to enjoy that glory, that which Ibrahimovic has likely now been denied.

Much like Kobe Bryant, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a winner throughout his career; the campaigns lost and potential escaped towards the end of Zlatan’s career is similar in this way to Bryant as well. While Ibrahimovic deserves to leave the game with a top club winning final trophies and receiving love from even opposing fans, he likely wont even get to play with a Swedish club thanks to this new injury.

The New Reality

Now, there’s a chance that Zlatan Ibrahimovic can rehabilitate himself once more; that he can get himself back to some semblance of what he now is as a number nine is hardly the question. No one has the work ethic that Zlatan has in Football outside of other legendary names of the past and present; the question is, what is necessarily the point?

Why work all the way back to play for a Swedish club? He coud’ve just as well stayed in LA with the Galaxy were this his fate; no, I see Zlatan as having a similar capacity as names like Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola, Diego Marradona and Zinidine Zidane.

While not all genius translates from medium to medium, I believe that Zlatan’s can and should; he sees football in a different way and on a different level than many of his peers. There is hardly a better way of extending a players legacy than to create a team of this ilk, players young and old, all playing just like their master.

It is not unlike a martial artist; why not teach your style and ideology to others in the eternal search for better, more beautiful expression? Better still, Zlatan knows how to motivate people, to make them desire, but also to calm and bring joy to them; he can play a teammate like an opponent should he desire to, and this zen like tact, or lack there of, can serve him well as a manager at any level.

While he wouldn’t be coaching top tier talent immediately quite likely, it would probably take less time than most to reach that level; Zlatan is no ordinary player or man, his work ethic is unstoppable and so, he will not quit until he is where he wishes to be.

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We should all be like Zlatan Ibrahimovic in this way, if not many of the others; he will rehab and continue on with his life how he sees fit. Should he want to come back to continue playing, it’s likely he will find someplace to do so; should he choose to move on however, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest players of this or of other generations, certainly the most mercurial to be sure.