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Zlatan Ibrahimović with gesture to the fans in Milan

Photo: Antonio Calanni / dpa

Lately, injuries have been bothering him more and more. Now the decision is official: superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović has ended his football career. "The time has come to say goodbye to football," the 41-year-old announced over the stadium microphone on Sunday evening at Milan's Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, visibly moved.

The striker was bid farewell by his last club AC Milan with a small ceremony following a 3-1 win over Hellas Verona on the final Serie A matchday. Many teammates on the pitch and countless fans in the stands cried or had tears in their eyes.

The Swede, who was unable to play due to injury, had already been celebrated by the Milan fans before kick-off: they showed a choreography with the lettering "Godbye" – a pun on goodbye. He was also greeted with chants of "Ibrahimović, Ibrahimović".

The professional reacted visibly touched and thanked the fans by forming a heart in their direction with his hands. In his short speech, he said late: "I will remain a Milanista for the rest of my life."

Only four league games – and one goal

Shortly before, there had been media reports that Ibrahimović was being courted by the Italian first division club AC Monza. The Scandinavian had recently left open whether and where he would continue his career. Late on Sunday evening, however, he made it clear: "Today was my last day as a professional footballer."

This season, Ibrahimović has only appeared in four league games due to various injuries, including three as a substitute, and scored only one goal. After a long absence due to knee surgery last year, the veteran was plagued first with a thigh injury and most recently with a calf injury.

After his return to Milan in January 2020, he had played a decisive role in Milan's upward trend, which was crowned with the league title last season.

Milan also ended this season with a success. Against Hellas, Olivier Giroud scored from a foul penalty (45+2) to take the lead. After Davide Faraoni equalised in the 72nd minute, Rafael Leao (85/90+2) scored a brace to secure victory and was applauded by Ibrahimović. Behind champions SSC Napoli, Lazio Roma and Inter Milan, Milan finished fourth in the final table and will thus play in the Champions League again in the autumn.