Zlatan Ibrahimovic's amazing post-30 strike record proves age is just a number

Jamie Spencer

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 27th goal of the season on Sunday as Manchester United easily beat a poor Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light - 28th if you also include the Community Shield winner at Wembley back in August, which Zlatan himself obviously does.

It was a fine strike from the veteran Swede, beating Black Cats goalkeeper Jordan Pickford low to his left from outside the penalty area, crafted through all his own guile to open up a sight of goal.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League
Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League

Ibrahimovic was once seen as an immature and unpredictable talent, capable of sheer brilliance, but never guaranteed to turn up and deliver. Now, as he nears the end of his 18th season as a professional, Zlatan is the one his team-mates can always turn to and lean on.

Remarkably, he's been getting ever better since turning 30 in October 2011.

The boy who used to steal bikes on the streets of Malmo's notorious Rosengard district has scored 482 goals at senior club and international level, but over half of those have come in the last five-and-a-half years alone. He began to mature as he reached his late 20s, and then it was like someone flipped a switch as he entered what are usually a player's twilight years.


He is a more prolific version of 36-year-old Athletic Bilbao veteran and Spain international Aritz Aduriz, whose late-blooming career has followed a similar pattern.

Between spells at United, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and international games for Sweden, Ibrahimovic has scored 250 goals since celebrating his 30th birthday. By comparison, he'd scored only 232 in 12 years before that.

Ibrahimovic scored 30 goals in a single season for the first time in 2011/12 with Milan, the campaign during which he turned 30. He then scored 35, 41, 30 and 50 in his four seasons in France with PSG and is only two goals shy of reaching 30 for United before 2016/17 is over.

With Sweden, his two most prolific international years came in 2012 and 2015 - both after turning 30 - when he scored 11 goals in each.

He is yet to agree to the optional contract extension that would keep him at Old Trafford for another 12 months, but if he does, you wouldn't put it past Zlatan Ibrahimovic to have yet another fine season after turning 36. Football's own version of fine wine.

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