Most fans of European football will have appreciated the skill and competitiveness of Zlatan Ibrahimović at some point or other. After all, Zlatan has had an illustrious career for both club and country, frequently scoring goals and unsettling defenders. Born in 1981, the striker first broke into the Swedish national team as far back as 2001. He went on to be picked for the 2002 World Cup squad in South Korea and Japan, although he did not play. Zlatan ended up competing in the two ensuing World Cups, however, and was involved in his country’s qualifying campaign for the 2014 tournament. In addition, the striker has played in three European Championship campaigns. His international career ended in 2016 after a total of 116 appearances with a tally of 62 goals to his name. Few European footballers have had such a successful international playing career. However, since retiring from the international stage, Zlatan has slipped off the radar for some football fans.
Perhaps this is because Zlatan also had a high profile club career which took in some of the biggest names in club soccer on the continent? Zlatan began his first team professional career in 1999 playing for Malmö FF. He then went on to enjoy spells at Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United. His club career was always in the spotlight, not least because Zlatan made a success of his time each and every one of these clubs. However, since he left Manchester United in the middle of the 2017-18 season, he signed for the relative obscurity of LA Galaxy which plies its trade in the Major League Soccer franchise in the United States. Since many soccer fans regard US professional football to be something of a backwater for former greats of the game, many have lost touch with Zlatan’s career. What has the striker been up to?
Advertising and Brand Ambassadorship
Towards the end of the 2017-18 season, BetHard Group, an up-and-coming online casino business that is based in Malta, announced that Zlatan would be its new brand ambassador. This was a problem for the player who was competing in the English Premiership at the time. The regulations that surround players endorsing gambling companies, like BetHard, are fairly strict and it amounts to an outright ban on the practice. Of course, top players have always endorsed global brands and have often been paid handsomely for it. Zlatan was no exception to this rule. Throughout his professional career, the striker was involved in many marketing campaigns, featuring in advertisements for the likes of Volvo, Vitamin Well, Samsung and Visa, among others.
The big difference with BetHard was that Zlatan was not merely the public ‘face’ of the group but a co-owner. At the time of Zlatan’s recruitment, the group’s founder, Eric Skarp, said that he was ‘super excited’ to welcome the forward on-board. However, since the English Football Association made Zlatan’s ambassadorship all but impossible something had to give. Soon after Skarp made his announcement, Manchester United – then Zlatan’s employer – said that the striker’s contract would be terminated. Had it not, it is likely that the FA would have been forced to take action against the player.
Since leaving the constraints placed on him by playing professional football in England, Zlatan has continued to promote BetHard. Most recently, he caused a stir by giving an interview to BetHard in which he made comments about the England captain, Harry Kane. His controversial statements were obviously designed to attract attention to the BetHard brand but were unwelcomed by many Tottenham fans because Zlatan suggested that Kane needed to sign for a ‘big club’ in order to achieve his full potential.
Zlatan’s Playing Career at LA Galaxy
One day after Zlatan had left Manchester United, he was a signed up player for LA Galaxy. Just one week later he turned out for his new club in a derby game against Los Angeles FC. The striker scored twice in that fixture, helping his team to a 4-3 victory. Having gone through a relatively dry spell – by his standards – there was little doubt that the magic had returned and that the Swede was determined to make a go of the final part of his playing career.
Over the course of the 2018 season, Zlatan went on to appear for LA Galaxy 27 times, playing a total of 2,143 minutes, not bad for an ageing player. What is perhaps more impressive for an older striker is the fact that Zlatan was highly effective. He managed to get 116 shots away during the season and scored 22 goals. In September, during a match against Toronto FC, Zlatan scored his 500th professional goal, putting him into an elite group of players.
Thus far in the 2019 season, Zlatan continues to impress. His club named the Swedish goalscorer as their new captain. At the age of 37, Zlatan obviously has plenty still left to offer a professional club. He has already scored for his side in the current season and Zlatan now stands with an impressive tally of 513 professional goals for club and country. That is equal 24th on the all time list of male strikers, alongside his fellow Swede Gunnar Nordahl. Only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are players still playing professional football who are ahead of him on the list of top goalscorers. Who knows which number the striker will have netted by the time he finally hangs his boots up to concentrate on his business interests?