Revealed: How Ibrahimovic almost quit football

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The enigmatic Swedish striker has enjoyed a glittering career, but there was a time in his younger days when he considered walking away from the game

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has impressed for the likes of Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, but a former coach has revealed that he came close to quitting football.

The enigmatic Swede took the first steps in his illustrious career at Malmo, having joined their youth ranks while still in his teens.

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He has gone on to become an iconic figure around the world, with spells at Ajax, Milan and Barcelona also taken in.

There was, however, a time when it looked as though Ibrahimovic would walk away from the game, with Malmo coach Johnny Gyllensjo having to talk a 15-year-old prodigy around from favouring life in the dockyards over that on the football field.

Gyllensjo told the Manchester Evening News about a conversation back in 1996 which helped to shape a modern day legend: "He was not so keen to play football anymore.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic quit threat 1996

“As an amateur psychologist, I talked to him. I think he really liked to score some goals and he couldn't do it and this was a problem for him.

"We could talk to each other and we had great respect for each other, and he started to move on in Malmo and play in the team. And so we are glad that we have a little bit of an influence in his career."

While Gyllensjo was busy talking sense into Ibrahimovic, Ola Gallstad oversaw training in Malmo’s youth ranks.

He is another who is delighted to have seen a top talent stick with the game, as the enigmatic frontman boasted an insatiable appetite to be the best even at a young age.

Gallstad added to MEN Sport: "He would come home and play street football with his friends.

"The game would be on the Saturday and then he would be playing football on the Sunday in Rosengard. He played football every day.

"I think it's the story of why he was so technical and successful in his career."

 

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Ibrahimovic has been unable to play the game he loves since April, when he suffered knee ligament damage.

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That injury brought his 2016-17 campaign at Manchester United to a close and forced him under the surgeon’s knife.

The 35-year-old has, however, worked his way back towards full fitness and has committed to a new short-term deal at Old Trafford.

It has been suggested that he could be nearing a comeback to competitive action, but the player and United – who initially set a January return date – have been warned not to rush things and wait until Ibrahimovic is completely over his ailment before thrusting him back onto the grandest of stages.

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