Football Features

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: AC Milan’s ‘Forever Man’ on Capocannoniere course

By Muhammad Butt

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: AC Milan 'Forever Man' on course for Capocannoniere

Published: 18:45, 28 October 2020

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is having one hell of a season so far with AC Milan.

After impressing with 11 goals in 20 games over the back-half of the 2019/20 campaign, the giant Swede has been on a tear this term with an incredible seven goals in five games – six of which have come in Serie A – to fire Milan to the top of the table despite being 39 years old.

It’s an even more incredible achievement when you consider all that he’s been through in just the last few years. In April 2017, Ibrahimovic sustained serious knee ligament damage while playing for Manchester United. His season was over with 28 goals in 46 games, but many felt that this would be the end of Ibrahimovic as a player. He was 35 years old at the time and the injury was usually one that takes about two years to fully recover from, and by then he would be 37 or 38. Any normal human would call it quits.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

  • Age: 39
  • Games played (since rejoining Milan): 25
  • Goals scored (since rejoining Milan): 18
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But Ibrahimovic is not a normal human being. The Swede is a medical marvel who broke all the strength tests at Manchester United when he signed for them and – despite being in his mid-30s – made light work of the Premier League’s much-hyped “physicality.”

Ibrahimovic is basically Wolverine. A month after his injury, as his team-mates were winning the Europa League final, he was already walking unaided, gripping the giant Europa League trophy in one hand and grinning from ear to ear. By November, he was back playing just six and a half months after the injury.

But such an injury does diminish you, you’re not going to be at your peak level for another couple of years. Radamel Falcao found that out to his cost as he spent the two years after his own ligament injury in the Premier League looking finished, only to return to France and win Ligue 1. Ibrahimovic, quite sensibly, left Manchester United for the MLS.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s changing Football Index value over the last three months

There, facing lower quality opponents, the Swede still managed to dominate as he slowly built his body back up to peak performance. He ended his spell in the USA with an incredible 53 goals in 58 games before returning to Milan halfway through the 2019/20 campaign.

Since then, well, records have tumbled. His first goal since returning to Milan meant that he had now scored in four different decades, a phenomenal achievement. He also became the first player to have scored 50 Serie A goals for both Milan clubs. And in a league famous for veteran talent, Ibrahimovic marked himself apart even there by becoming the oldest player to score at least 10 goals in a Serie A season, needing only six months to do it.

Even now, at the start of 2020/21, Ibrahimovic has become the first player since 1994/95 (the three points for a win era) to score 2+ goals in each of his first three Serie A games of a season. Even as he approaches 40, he continues to dominate and set records – having claimed his first Capocannoniere award while playing for Milan all the way back in 2008/09.

10 years ago, at the age of 29, Ibrahimovic fired Milan to a Serie A title (their last triumph). Now a decade hence, at the age of 39, could Ibrahimovic repeat his 2011 miracle and lead Milan to another Serie A title? There’s a lot of football still to be played, but if the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that you can never, ever rule out Zlatan Ibrahimovic: football’s Forever Man.