BEVERLY HILLS, March 15, (THEWILL) – The irrepressible Swedish football veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who currently plies his globetrotting trade with AC Milan in his return to Serie A, has decidedly returned to international reckoning by coming out of retirement with the determination that he will don his country’s colours and feature again for Sweden.
The 39-year-old striker, whose last game for the Swede senior men’s national side was in the summer of 2016 at the European Championships, has been named in their national team squad for World Cup qualifiers to be played during the international break this month.
Jan Olof Andersen, former Swedish player and current national coach, did not hide his keen interest in getting Ibrahimovic to decide to return to the team especially with the striker still displaying the goal-scoring form that has kept Milan in contention for the Scudetto this season in Italy.
Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer has practically rolled back the years for Stefano Pioli’s Milan this season. His 16 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions kept the Milan club competitive through the domestic and Europa fixtures and, in all, he has accumulated 27 goals in 41 games since last season when he returned to Italy.
Concerns about Ibrahimovic’s personality causing some disruption within the national team were raised but those were considered inconsequential when weighed against the clear advantages and benefits a player of Ibrahimovic’s stature, talents and experience can bring to their chances at the upcoming qualifiers.
After retiring from international football in 2016, he he continued his travels by playing for Manchester United, LA Galaxy and even returned to AC Milan while recording successes at all three despite suffering a serious knee injury in 2017 while with the Red Devils, the year before he moved to play in the Major League Soccer (MLS) in America.
Andersen knows what having an Ibrahimovic leading the attack line of Sweden can provide. Age has not robbed the veteran of his cutting edge and that will come in handy at the European Championships this summer as they qualified by being tough to beat, solid defensively and they have a smattering of skilled attacking midfielders in Emil Fosberg and Dejan Kulusevski who create chances. Ibrahimovic will be there to be the clinical edge that will complete their formation.
That is what Sweden is missing; someone to put those creative products away, to turn them into goals. That is where Zlatan comes in. In a productive 15-year international career, the 39-year-old scored 62 goals in 112 appearances for Sweden. Marcus Berg is the only current Sweden striker who has scored double figures and does not come close to Ibrahimovic’s stature.
In Ibrahimovic’s absence, the Scandinavia country reached the World Cup quarterfinals in 2018, but were eliminated in their loss to England. They also seemed to do well without him when they qualified comfortably for the European Championships this summer, but Zlatan will offer something a little different in attack going into the competition proper.
A fit Zlatan is always going to be an asset to any side with his clinical approach to goal-scoring and the very imposing presence of the man, which causes problems for defenders tasked with keeping tabs on him. That is why Andersen wanted him back and has got his wish.
In Group E against Spain, Poland and Slovakia, Sweden’s challenge just got even more interesting this summer. It will be a group to watch.