Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “I can still do those movements, that ninja stuff. I still have it in me, even if I’m 39.” Sweden team-mate Marcus Berg: “He wants to win for any price. He’s inspiring the younger players.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic toasted his first Sweden appearance in five years and insisted he still has the “ninja” moves to make a difference at 39.
The AC Milan striker quit international duty after Euro 2016 but has now made a surprise return to the Sweden ranks – and required just 35 minutes to claim an assist in a 1-0 win over Georgia.
Ibrahimovic also became the oldest player to represent Sweden in Thursday’s World Cup Qualifier, breaking the
record of 38 years and 59 days held by former goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli.
But he warned opponents to expect plenty more eye-catching moments.
“When I play, I try to do my things,” Ibrahimovic told reporters after the game.
“There is nothing that I plan to do or think to do before a game; it’s just impulsive stuff. I can still do those movements, that ninja stuff. I still have it in me, even if I’m 39.
“The feeling was amazing. I just missed the Swedish crowd, the fans, because the last time I played here was a full stadium and the atmosphere is different when it’s full but the rest was amazing.
“I was very happy. I was very proud. I had a great feeling when I was on the field and I tried to give my best, like every time, to help the team-mates and to help myself to perform.
“The game was not easy. We were not dangerous as we should be but at the end of the day, we won and we took the three points that we needed to bring. This is the first game we have been together for two, three days, and from this point on, it will be better and better.
Ibrahimovic broke down in tears earlier in the week when weighing up his decision to come out of international retirement.
But having played in two World Cup finals – in 2002 and 2006 – and not scored a goal, he admitted he has unfinished business.
“I have one thing with World Cups and it’s that I have never scored a goal in the World Cup finals, so that’s something I have to beat,”
“I can’t have that on zero.”
Ibrahimovic’s likely strike partner, Marcus Berg, welcomed his team-mate’s return and believes his winning mentality will inspire younger members of the squad at this summer’s European Championship as well as beyond.
“Yeah, with his words, he can push players and but for me, it’s just to look at him, how we behave,” Berg – 34 himself – said.
“He wants to win, for any price. He’s a hard worker on and off the pitch and he’s inspiring the younger players, I think.
“I think he’s more a box player nowadays. He’s always been fantastic there, but of course, with his physics (physical condition), it’s not easy to run that much for the 90 minutes.
“So I think his quality in the box is something that we have to help him to play on his qualities, to serve him a lot of balls in the box. I think there he can win the games for us.”