Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his retirement from football on Sunday AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS

Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic has retired from professional football at the age of 41. The charismatic figure was choking back tears as he said goodbye to a highly appreciative and equally emotional crowd at the San Siro Stadium in Milan on Sunday night.

AC Milan fans came out in droves to watch the final match of the season and to say goodbye to the club legend who inspired them to win the Scudetto last season. Milan secured an easy 3-1 victory over Hellas Verona FC but Ibrahimovic only watched from the sidelines as he is still recovering from a calf injury that he picked up back in April.

A fter the match ended, the Swedish ace took the spotlight as he walked onto the pitch amid a roaring standing ovation from his teammates and from the partisan crowd. He was not wearing an AC Milan kit, but was instead wearing a casual black shirt that gives a glimpse at his future outside of football.

He was a towering figure on the pitch, and his presence was enough to fill the entire stadium. Fans were crying openly as they waved shirts with the player's name and number printed on the back.

Such is Zlatan's impact on AC Milan that even his teammates could be seen visibly looking moved as he took the microphone to say a few words. Italy and AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini also looked taken by the scenes around him after he handed the Swede a framed Milan shirt printed with his name and number.

"So many memories and emotions inside this stadium. The first time I arrived you gave me happiness, the second time, you gave me love," said Zlatan, referring to his two unforgettable stints with the Serie A giants.

He joined the Rossoneri under controversial circumstances in 2010 after having previously played for rivals Inter Milan from 2006-2009. He then switched loyalties to help AC Milan end their seven-year title drought.

After his first successful stint with the club, he went on to share his magic with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and LA Galaxy before returning to AC Milan in 2019. He then led the club to yet another Serie A title in 2021-22, ending another lengthy drought and cementing his name as a club legend.

"I want to thank my family and those close to me for their patience. I want to thank my second family. The players, the coach and his staff for the responsibility they gave me. I want to thank the directors for the opportunity they gave me.

"Last but not least, from my heart, I want to thank you, fans. You welcomed me with open arms and I will be a Milanista my entire life. It's time to say goodbye to football, but not to you," he said before stopping for a moment to keep his emotions in check.

He was visibly on the verge of tears when he said, "It's too difficult, there are too many emotions. I'll see you around if you are lucky. Forza Milan and goodbye."

During his time with the Rossoneri, Ibrahimovic scored 93 goals in 163 appearances and is leaving as one of the most iconic figures to have ever worn the club's shirt. Even though he played for other European giants like Juventus, PSG, Manchester United and FC Barcelona, his time and impact at Milan is truly incomparable.

Throughout his illustrious career, he managed to score a total of 511 goals on the club level. He is also a legend for Sweden, where he is the top scorer with 63 goals in 122 games.