AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic
AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic Image Credit: AP

The average retirement age for footballers is 35 — but Zlatan Ibrahimovic has spent his entire career convincing us he’s anything but average.

Most footballers start early and end early — by their mid-30s, the body isn’t what it used to be: it can’t handle the same exercise regimens, it’s more prone to injuries, and it will take longer to heal up from any minor or major hit.

But Ibrahimovic just smashed another career first at the age of 39, shattering the idea that over-35s are past their prime.

AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Napoli
AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Napoli Image Credit: Reuters

On Monday night, he scored twice for AC Milan’s 0-2 away fixture against Cagliari, marking his 12th goal in eight games this season.

For Ibrahimovic, this was the first time that he scored in nine successive starts while playing in the top-five European leagues.

“These young people are motivating me, they play against me and make me run more and I don’t give up,” he said after the match.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has hinted at  return for Sweden
Zlatan is not done at AC Milan. Image Credit: Instagram

It’s also the 23rd consecutive calendar year that Ibrahimovic has scored a goal, with his first being in 1999, weeks after his 18th birthday.

In another two goals, Ibrahimovic will reach 500 club goals, including his times at Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, LA Galaxy and AC Milan.

Last year, Ibrahimovic admitted he had decided to retire in the summer before changing his mind.

“[Milan manager Stefano] Pioli asked me what I wanted to do. I replied: ‘No, I am not going to continue. Enough. My family is also important, I’m here alone, it’s a sacrifice. For six months it’s fine, but I don’t want to stay another year,’” admitted Ibrahimovic.

“Then something changed. I didn’t want to have any regrets. I called Milan and decided to go on.”

He added: “Without football, who am I? When you don’t do what you’ve done for 25 years, it’s not easy. Am I ready? No, because I feel too good.”

Still, the brash Swede said that he is no longer the same player as the one from a decade ago.

“Ten years ago I had another status, another ego. But today I have more experience. When you are young you are more rock ’n’ roll, now I understand situations more,” said Ibrahimovic.

"Without football, who am I?" Image Credit: Agency