There are very few unicorns in sports, but one of them announced their retirement on Sunday as Zlatan Ibrahimovic called time on a legendary playing career at the end of AC Milan’s season.
Ibrahimovic scored more than 500 goals between club and country, and had nearly as many headline-making moments with eyebrow-raising quotes and gestures.
Many of his comments were self-aggrandizing — he called himself “Benjamin Button” and “Indiana Jones” and “bigger than all of MLS“– and often viewed with humor, though he earned sincere criticism for speaking against athletes like LeBron James being involved in political discussions.
He was also involved in humanitarian efforts, raising money for hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic and putting on temporary tattoos to raise awareness of childhood hunger.
[ MORE: Zlatan scores early, late as Man United win thrilling League Cup ]
Ibrahimovic, 41, was limited to just four games this season due to injuries to his knee, calf, and hamstring, scoring one goal over 144 minutes. His last appearance goes down as a 17-minute cameo for Sweden in a EURO qualifier loss to Belgium on March 24.
Nominated for 11 Ballons d’Or and finishing fourth once, Ibrahimovic was named to four UEFA Teams of the Year and was honored thrice as the Serie A Footballer of the Year and three more times as Ligue 1 Player of the Year. Ibrahimovic was four-times the Swedish Male Athlete of the Year.
He’s also the only player to score in the UEFA Champions League for six different teams, and the only player to win the Capocannoniere — Serie A’s Golden Boot — for two clubs (AC Milan and Inter Milan).
Ibrahimovic claimed trophies at virtually every stop of his career besides childhood club Malmo and Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy, where he set the MLS single-season goals record with 30.
He won two Eredivisie crowns at Ajax, Serie A scudetti with Juventus, Inter Milan, and AC Milan, a La Liga title with Barcelona, four Ligue 1 victories with PSG, and the League Cup and Europa League for Manchester United. He also scored the 25,000th goal in Premier League history.
Ibrahimovic retires a Swedish centurion, scoring 62 times in 122 caps including six goals in 13 EURO appearances. He failed to score in five appearances for Sweden between the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
His star lost some shine in Sweden when he purchased a stake in Hammarby, a rival to his boyhood club of Malmo: Fans sawed his statue off at the ankles.
Maybe now we’ll get the 10 “Rambo”-styled movies about Zlatan he once mentioned in a press conference.
Surely we’ll hear more from Ibra in the future.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic calls time on remarkable playing career originally appeared on NBCSports.com