Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s time in Major League Soccer has reached a conclusion, but the veteran striker has given no indication that he is finished playing.
Despite the fact that he will turn 39 in 2020, Sweden’s record goalscorer has been playfully teasing his next move, dropping hints here and there about where he is going.
A nomadic career has seen him win trophies in five different countries and he has turned out for some of the biggest, most revered football institutions in the world.
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So, where could Ibrahimovic end up next? Goal takes a look at some of the Swede’s potential transfer destinations.
A return to AC Milan has been a consistent talking point regarding Ibrahimovic in recent seasons and speculation has intensified since his departure from LA Galaxy.
Of course, Ibra was happy to pour fuel on the rumours of a San Siro homecoming when he outlined what he envisaged his next club to be a few weeks ago.
“I will join a club that must get back to winning, that has to renew its history and is in search of a battle against everyone and everything,” he said in an interview with GQ Italia.
“That is the only way I’ll be able to find the necessary motivation to surprise you again. It’s not just about choosing a team, as there are other factors that need to line up, including in the interests of my family.
“I’ll see you in Italy soon.”
The Rossoneri do, indeed, find themselves in a fight to restore former glories and, even though he is approaching 40, the Swede could inspire confidence in a team that has been sorely lacking a talismanic force.
With Krzysztof Piatek desperately struggling for form, Ibrahimovic is exactly the sort of signing that would help Milan.
And, if anyone doubts what a veteran can do in Serie A, just look at Fabio Quagliarella, who scored a sprightly 26 goals in the division last season.
Milan head coach Stefano Pioli did not shy away from the question when asked about Ibrahimovic, telling DAZN in December: “I’ve already said he is a champion and would bring that determination and character to raise the intensity and focus even during training, more so than in games.”
In his first season in the Premier League, when many doubted he would thrive in England, Ibrahimovic scored 28 goals across all competitions for Manchester United.
The appointment of Ibrahimovic’s old boss Carlo Ancelotti as Everton manager has led to suggestions that a Premier League return is increasingly likely. So, could we see him on Merseyside?
When asked about the possibility of Ibrahimovic arriving at Goodison Park, Ancelotti laughed and said: “He is a good friend of mine. I have trained a lot of fantastic players.
“I know he finishes his period in the United States, I don’t know what his idea is. I have to call him, maybe I call him. If he wants to come to Liverpool to enjoy he can come – but not to play!”
The Toffees have struggled in front of goal this season and, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is an undoubted talent, he is not yet a striker who is guaranteed to score double figures every year.
Despite playing down the possibility of Ibrahimovic joining the club, Ancelotti and the Everton hierarchy might see the short-term benefits to such a move – plus, they are a club who will be able to afford it.
It came as a surprise to many when Ibrahimovic left Manchester United in order to join LA Galaxy in 2018. Injuries had severely impacted his time at Old Trafford, but it was felt that he still had plenty to offer.
Indeed, the Swede even suggested in the summer that he would be willing to go back to Old Trafford if the club needed him.
Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer laughed off the comments at the time, saying: “If he was 28, not 38 it would be a big difference.
“But Zlatan has had a great time here and, of course, he is still doing well and was unfortunate he got his injury here when he did.
“So, who knows? He knows my number. He never rented my house but he was looking at it, and we can speak our native language. If he’s serious I’ll always speak to Zlatan.”
United let Romelu Lukaku leave the club during the summer, along with Alexis Sanchez, and Solskjaer was investing his faith in Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, as well as youngster Mason Greenwood.
But they haven’t been as incisive as the Norwegian would have hoped and Champions League qualification looks less likely through the league.
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La Liga fans were placed on high alert in October when Ibrahimovic posted a provocative message on social media which suggested he was on his way back to Spain.
As it turned out, the post was nothing more than a publicity stunt for a betting company that was launching in the country, but that doesn’t mean a Spanish move cannot happen.
When the rumour mill was sent into overdrive, Atletico Madrid were the main club tipped to move for the Swede, along with, to a lesser extent, Valencia and Athletic Club.
It’s easy to see how Ibrahimovic would fit into Diego Simeone’s team, since the Argentine coach is a fan of physical, combative forwards.
However, if he joined Atleti, the former Barcelona striker would have competition from the likes of Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa and the young pretender, Joao Felix.
Of Europe’s elite divisions, the only one Ibrahimovic has not yet dipped his toe in is Germany’s Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund have been touted as a potential destination.
“It would be a special chance to show himself in an entirely new league,” said Ibrahimovic’s compatriot Martin Dahlin.
“I played in the Bundesliga for a long time and it’s still one of the strongest leagues in the world.
“Ibra would certainly fit in with BVB’s style of play and would attract fans.”
Dortmund’s current style and set-up under Lucien Favre sees an expansive game, but there is no out-and-out goalscorer in the team, with a preponderance of tricky forwards deployed instead.
If he had service from the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Thorgan Hazard, Ibrahimovic could certainly thrive in the Bundesliga.
Once upon a time, in the 1990s, Fiorentina boasted the best striker in world football and their swashbuckling brand of football earned them plenty of admirers in Italy.
La Viola was not the first club most people thought of when Ibrahimovic said he’d “see you in Italy soon”, but there is a good argument for the Swede to undertake a Tuscan adventure.
It would be a true challenge, given Fiorentina are languishing in the bottom half of Serie A, but they have realistic expectations of mounting a push for Europe nonetheless.
They have already signed veteran winger Franck Ribery and boast an array of talented youth, including Federico Chiesa, who could do worse than learn from one of the best.