“I came. I said. I conquered.”
It was hard to disagree with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s sentiment last month on Instagram as official confirmation emerged that a serious knee injury had brought an end to his prolific one-season stint at Manchester United.
But because “lions don’t recover like humans”, another line from the Swede’s memorable social media, it appears that a fresh contract at Old Trafford could be heading the way of the iconic ex-Ajax, Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint Germain striker.
Would it be another masterstroke by the ‘Special One’ to rehire a 35-year-old who is expected to be fit again in December, or a damaging U-turn?
Here, Sport360 lists three reasons why bringing Ibrahimovic back into the fold would be the wrong move.
PUTTING THE TEAM FIRST
When you examine Ibrahimovic’s individual numbers at United, his stint can be considered nothing but a success. He lived up to his giant reputation with an age-defying return of 28 goals in 46 games and delivered in the Community Shield and League Cup final.
Yet the wider context does him no favours. The Premier League’s official statistics show him wasting 18 clear chances – five more than joint-second placed Benik Afobe of Bournemouth and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.
Such misses contrived to United finishing a disappointing sixth. Several unwanted Premier League-era records were notched up with Ibrahimovic leading the line; most draws (15), fewest wins (17) and least goals (54).
The Swede’s lack of pace and propensity to drop into midfield bogged down the United attack. New signing Romelu Lukaku’s cut and thrust will be welcome.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
A changing of the guard is under way at Old Trafford.
Gone are the elder statesmen of captain Wayne Rooney and Ibrahimovic. In their place, a group of attackers blessed with vibrancy and inspiration are ready to step up.
Lukaku will be desperate to impress after he so publicly turned down a return to champions Chelsea in favour of a £75 million (Dh360.7 million) move from Everton. At 24, he is the perfect age to grasp the responsibility of being the major goal threat for one of world football’s grandees.
The sight of him interlinking with vibrant England forward Marcus Rashford is one to relish. The 19-year-old plays the game at turbo speed, something Ibrahimovic for all his timeless qualities cannot offer.
Further back, centre midfielder Paul Pogba’s reputation after a world-record transfer was sullied by Ibrahimovic regularly spurning his delightful would-be assists.
The imaginative France superstar will look so much better with attackers who head towards goal with their swift runs, rather than dropping back into the midfield quagmire.
AN ENDING UNSUITABLE FOR A KING
Ibrahimovic’s status as a modern great was assured long before he stepped onto the Old Trafford turf for the first time last August.
His luster was then only added to as a characteristic flood of soundbites and goals followed.
This is why the sight of him potentially winding down his days as a bit-part player for United in the second half of 2017/18 does not sit right. An even worse proposition would be to see his performances hampered by the double ligament damage accrued in April’s painful fall against Celta Vigo in the Europa’s semi-finals.
The opportunity to conquer the ‘City of Angels’ with either LA Galaxy or the new Los Angeles FC in Major League Soccer would be far more fitting.
Ibrahimovic deserves to go out with a bang. Ruling Major League Soccer and introducing the United States to the ‘I Am Zlatan’ persona would provide the perfect ending to one of football’s most-iconic careers.