Stockholm (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic said Tuesday that Sweden fans should not expect too much of him in the World cup playoffs and that he was “panicking” at the prospect of retiring.
The 40-year-old striker is suspended for the World Cup playoff semi-final against the Czech Republic on Thursday but, if Sweden win, could make his return against Poland in a match for a place in the finals in Qatar.
But, while he showed he could still play a blinder in a press conference, he warned that he did not think he could keep going for a whole football match.
“I don’t have 90 minutes in my legs. But we knew that before this gathering,” he said, adding he was “an old guy, but fit”.
Ibrahimovic was joined at the press conference by the 19-year-old Manchester United attacker Anthony Elanga, whose father, Cameroonian international Joseph Elanga, was a team-mate of Zlatan’s at Malmo in 2000-1.
“Enjoy it while I’m on the pitch, because you won’t see anything like it,” Ibrahimovic said. “You will see Elanga. I say that with all respect, but you will not see Ibrahimovic. So enjoy it while you can.”
Ibrahimovic has appeared in 22 games for Serie A leaders AC Milan this season, scoring eight goals.
“I have this little fear: what will happen next? I know that I will have different opportunities afterwards, that I will have many offers. But this adrenaline that I have on the pitch I will not find it anywhere else,” he said.
“So that’s why I have this panic. I will continue as long as possible and just enjoy.”
Ibrahimovic returned to the Sweden team after more than four years for the World cup qualifying campaign.
He played in each of the first two games, then missed the next 12 internationals, including Euro 2020, with injuries.
He came back for the last two qualifiers, starting a surprise loss to Georgia before coming off the bench for another defeat, to Spain, when he picked up a second yellow card of the campaign to earn a suspension.
Sweden have younger options.
In addition to Elanga, there are 21-year-old Dejan Kulusevski, a Juventus player on loan at Tottenham, and 22-year-old Alexander Isak, of Real Sociedad.
“They are the future, we should not invest or bet on me, but on them. I’m here to help them move forward,” said the veteran.
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