Zlatan Ibrahimovic: AC Milan striker vows to ‘keep going’
Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he is not ready to walk away from football just yet and is still hungry for more success.
The 39-year-old AC Milan forward is the current top scorer in Serie A, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku, with 10 goals from eight league games.
Ex-Sweden international Ibrahimovic has played in the top division of seven countries in a career that started more than two decades ago.
“I’ll keep going until I can’t do these things I’m doing,” he told BBC Sport.
“I just have to keep physically good and the rest will be solved by itself.”
AC Milan are top of the Serie A table and unbeaten after 10 games, five points clear of city rivals Inter.
“We are in unbelievable form – we are doing great, we’re doing good,” the Swede, who missed two games after testing positive for Covid-19, said.
“But still we haven’t won anything, we have to keep that in mind.”
Ibrahimovic says his second spell at Milan differs to his first time with the club a decade ago. Last season, the side finished sixth in the league.
An added motivation has been the fact some fans were not convinced he could perform in a top European league as a 39-year-old who had been playing in the USA for LA Galaxy – despite having scored almost 500 career goals.
“The first time I came to Milan I came to a club fighting for the title, the second time I came it was in a situation to bring the club and the team back to the top where it belongs,” he said.
“It’s a different challenge, it’s a challenge I like, because when they say it’s too difficult, it’s almost impossible, that’s where I come in the picture and that’s where I feel alive.
“If I can succeed and if I’m able to do what I think I can do, the feedback is amazing, the feeling is amazing because it’s a bigger achievement than coming to a top team that is already top. I’m very motivated.”
Recovering from a career-threatening knee injury suffered while at Manchester United in 2017 has also helped to drive Ibrahimovic.
“After my injury I said to myself that as long as I can play football I want to play,” he explained. “But when you play on this level it’s all about performance. If you perform, if you bring results, then you are still on the top level.
“As soon as you don’t do that someone else will come and they will perform. I like that pressure because I don’t want to be here because of what I’ve done before. I’m here because of what I do at the present time and that is the pressure I put on myself.
“Whatever I did before I don’t bring it on the table now because it’s like I have to demonstrate every day who I am. That’s why I bring out the best of me every day. I’ll keep going until I can’t do these things I’m doing.”
The former Barcelona, Inter, Ajax, Paris St-Germain and Malmo player understands that even he needs to adapt his game, though.
“I have a lot of experience, goals have never been an issue, I just keep going. I’m not the same player I was five years ago, I’m not the same player I was 10 years ago, we all change because of the development in your physical point of view,” he said.
“I’m honest in saying that I’m not running like I ran before; I’m running more intelligent now. The Italian league, the reason I say that it’s the most difficult to play in for a striker is because it’s very technical and the philosophy of Italy is to not to concede a goal rather than score a goal.
“I feel like I’ve been here different generations. I played against (former Milan defender) Paolo Maldini and now I’m playing with his son, Daniel. Hopefully I can play with Daniel’s son also, that would be a miracle.”
His recent positive test for Covid-19 was more of a “mental challenge” than physical, he said – he went on to front an information campaign in Italy asking people to respect social distancing and not to challenge the virus as “you are not Zlatan”.