The return of the nation’s most productive striker has left fans elated and turned Sweden into a fearsome opponent in the upcoming Euros. Experts, by contrast, are more divided on Ibrahimovic’s possible contribution.
After a five-year hiatus, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the nation’s leading goal scorer, is back on team Sweden’s roster.
“We saw a future for Zlatan again”, coach Janne Andersson told national broadcaster SVT about the 39-year-old. “First and foremost, he is a very talented footballer, the best we have had in Sweden. It is of course very nice that he wants to come back. In addition to what he can contribute on the pitch, he has incredible experience and can share it with other players on the team”, Andersson explained.
The relationship between Andersson and Ibrahimovic has been frosty due to harsh criticism by the latter. The last time Zlatan wore Sweden’s yellow and blue jersey happened in the European Championships in 2016. The nation’s loss to Belgium on 23 June 2016 was the last of Zlatan Sweden saw – until now.
The comeback means that Ibrahimovic is eligible to participate in this summer’s European Championships.
“As part of this squad, he is relevant for the European Championships as well”, Andersson said.
“It’s fun, it’s entertainment. It’s a monster we get in”, football expert Daniel Nannskog of national broadcaster SVT said about Zlatan’s comeback. “It feels exciting, it will be an extra spice to follow the national team with Zlatan in place”, he added.
By contrast, Ralf Edström, football expert and former national team player, ventured that Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have a negative impact on the rest of the squad.
“First of all, I want to say that Zlatan is the best football player we have had through the ages, there is no doubt about that. However, there is the question of how he fits into the squad. I can imagine him benched. Will he accept it, being benched in the national team?”, Edström mused. “Then there is also the issue of how he’s received in the squad, it’s not Zlatan’s fault. I think the guys around him have too much respect for Zlatan”, Edström added.
“Ibra” himself, who is hardly known as the epitomy of modesty, proclaimed “the return of the God” on social media, posting a picture of himself in a team Sweden uniform.
”Absurdly humble’, an elated user reacted, laughing themselves to tears.
”He doesn’t return to the national team, the national team returns to him”, another one chimed in, poking fun at Zlatan’s notoriously larger-than-life persona.
He doesn’t return to the national team, the national team returns to him 🦁
— Emil Nystedt (@emil_nystedt) March 16, 2021
”The God never left Sweden, Sweden have returned to the God”, yet another picked up on Zlatan’s self-glorification.
The God never left Sweden, Sweden have returned to the God.
— Anagram254 (@Anagram254) March 16, 2021
”Zlatan doesn’t go to the Euros. The Euros are coming to Zlatan”, a user noted in yet another “Zlatan reversal”.
Zlatan doesn’t go to the euros. The euros are coming to zlatan
— 𝙇𝙖𝙘𝙖𝙯𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙚⁹ (@lacazetteeeee) March 16, 2021
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is widely seen as one of the most prolific scorers of his generation and one of the most decorated footballers currently in the game. Amid speculations about the final stages of his career, the divisive yet beloved 39-year-old striker himself joked that he would play at the same level until he turns 50.