Soccer icon Zlatan Ibrahimović retires after career that spanned 24 years

Zlatan Ibrahimović of AC Milan gestured to an adoring AC Milan crowd after announcing his retirement on Sunday. (Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Zlatan Ibrahimović of AC Milan gestured to an adoring crowd after announcing his retirement on Sunday. (Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

Zlatan Ibrahimović is calling it quits.

The Swedish soccer icon announced his retirement Sunday in an emotional postgame speech in front of a San Siro Stadium home crowd at the conclusion of AC Milan's Serie A season. He did so following Milan's 3-1 win over Verona. Ibrahimović, 41, made the announcement in street clothes. He hasn't played since a calf injury sidelined him in April.

“So many memories and emotions inside this stadium," Ibrahimović said in Italian while addressing fans, per "Mirror" translation. "The first time I arrived you gave me happiness, the second time, you gave me love. ...

"You welcomed me with open arms, and I will be a Milanista my entire life. It’s time to say goodbye to football, but not to you. It’s too difficult, there are too many emotions. I’ll see you around if you are lucky. Forza Milan and goodbye.”

Ibrahimović made his announcement while flanked by his teammates dressed in his No. 11 jersey. His retirement arrives at the end of his second stint with AC Milan that started in 2019. Injuries limited him to just four games this season following knee surgery in 2022. He sounded unsure about retirement as recently as Saturday.

"I think I still have something to give," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport, per "If I think about quitting? I don’t think so. If I have to continue playing? I think so.

"But I have to find balance like in life. If you don’t have serenity, or stability, you’re a bomb and the bombs explode."

Milan also announced Saturday it would not be renewing his contract, which concluded at season's end.

Ibrahimović began his professional career in 1999 with Sweden's Malmö FF and played for nine teams, including Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United before a two-season stint stateside with MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy. He returned to AC Milan for his second stint following his tenure with the Galaxy. He previously played with AC Milan from 2010-12.

Ibrahimović won three Serie A titles with Inter Milan from 2008-10. He won another with AC Milan in 2012 and again in 2022. He played for Sweden's national team and finishes his career as its all-time leading scorer with 62 goals. He twice helped Sweden to the World Cup Round of 16, in 2002 and 2006. He finished as high as fourth in Ballon d'Or voting in 2013.

Beloved for his aggressive playing style and ever-present confidence, Ibrahimović was a fan favorite across his stops. He regularly spoke about himself in the third person and repeatedly referred to himself as "God." His full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times to announce his 2018 Galaxy arrival embodied his brash style.

"Dear Los Angeles," the copy read.

"You're Welcome."

It was accompanied by his signature. And that was it.

AC Milan fans returned the love and passion on Sunday as Ibrahimović bid his farewell. The stands remained packed postgame as fans sang, saluted and filled San Siro Stadium with chants of "Ibrahimović, Ibrahimović."