Zlatan Ibrahimovic has dropped a stronger hint that he might come out of international retirement to resume his long career with Sweden at the World Cup this summer.
The 36-year-old striker, who last month left Manchester United to join the LA Galaxy in Major League soccer, tweeted on Sunday that he felt his chances of featuring in Russia were “skyhoga”, which means sky high in English.
Sweden beat Italy in a play-off to qualify in November but Ibrahimovic was absent from the campaign as he retired from international football following Euro 2016.
Speaking on the ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ talk show on Tuesday, Ibrahimovic said: “I’m going to the World Cup, yes. I just said I’m going to the World Cup. I say more, people will hang me so I have to be careful what I say now.
“A World Cup without me wouldn’t be a World Cup.”
Ibrahimovic went to the 2002 and 2006 finals with Sweden but the Scandinavians failed to reach the tournaments in South Africa and Rio.
The former Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain player has scored three goals across his three appearances for the LA Galaxy, including a match-winning brace against Los Angeles FC on his debut.
Referring to his dramatic maiden strike for the Galaxy, Ibrahimovic added: “Before I came I knew there were some earthquakes in Los Angeles but this one was missing.
“I’m not a typical Swedish guy, but I put Sweden on the map.”
Ibrahimovic, who has won 116 caps, has talked in the past about returning to the Sweden set-up, saying only last month: “If I want, I am there.”
Sweden are in the same group as world champions Germany, Mexico and South Korea this summer.
Speaking to AFP in Dubai, the 77-year-old, who has been in ailing health recently, put his faith in Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar’s ability to recover from a fractured foot in time to lead Brazil to a possible sixth global football title.
“We don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but I think for the World Cup he’s going to be in shape because his injury is not so bad,” said Pele, the only person to have won the World Cup three times as a player.
“I wish he has the same luck I had in the World Cup.”
PSG’s Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, has not played since breaking a metatarsal bone in his right foot on February 25 in a Ligue 1 match against Marseille. He said last week he is still recovering following surgery but expects to be fit in time for the World Cup from June 14 to July 15.
In the last World Cup on home soil four years ago, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semi-finals but Pele feels the team under “psychologist” Tite, which breezed through South American qualifying, has the tools to go all the way.
“I am confident because Tite, the new coach, now (has) had a little time to set up the team.
“We have a lot of excellent players in Europe. The problem is to put the team together.
“I think we’re going to have a good team in the next World Cup.”
Pele said he expected few surprises at the tournament, identifying Lionel Messi’s Argentina, Germany, England and France as potential challengers — although he didn’t mention 2010 world champions Spain or current European laureates Portugal, led by their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, he said “football is a box of surprises”.
As for his own health problems – Pele cancelled a trip to England in January due to “exhaustion”, although his spokesman denied he had been hospitalised — Pele said there was little cause for concern.
“I cannot play in the next World Cup but I feel good,” he said with a hearty laugh.
“I had an injury, then I had to make a surgery for the head of my hip, then I had to replace (it), then I had a little problem with my meniscus, but now I am OK, I am ready, in good shape!”
Provided by AFP Sport
“I like Tite. He’s honest with the players,” Pele said. “He’s going to be good and going to do nice work with Brazil.”
Pele says this year’s team should be making the final at the very least, if not winning it all, although he noted that Tite will have difficulties in getting the squad together to build his team ahead of the World Cup in Russia, with Brazil’s best players scattered across Europe.
The former Santos player added that he is not a fan of the World Cup’s decision to expand to 48 teams starting from 2026, although he acknowledged that it was a good opportunity for more countries to make it to football’s showpiece event.
“The more teams you get, the lower the quality of the game,” said Pele. “I think it’s too many teams.
“Let’s see. Maybe some country who’s never come to the final, never won the World Cup, could win.”