Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed everyone told him not to risk his reputation by playing in England and how a successful spell at Manchester United made him feel young again – “like Benjamin Button”.
The 37-year-old Sweden forward made a high-profile free agent switch to Old Trafford in July 2016 after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, initially on a one-season contract.
Ibrahimovic produced a major impact with the Red Devils, scoring twice to help Jose Mourinho’s side win the 2017 EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley, before then suffering a serious knee injury during the Europa League quarter-final with Anderlecht.
The veteran frontman, though, recovered full fitness and signed a contract extension, but eventually left United to join Major League Soccer club Los Angeles Galaxy during March 2018.
In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC 5 Live Football Daily podcast, Ibrahimovic recalled the advice he had received when the much-travelled former Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona, PSG, Inter and AC Milan forward was contemplating life in the Premier League.
“When I went to England I was talking to different players that I knew well and trusted that would give me an honest opinion.
"From all of them everyone said ‘do not do it’ – they said it would not be good for my career because you put your whole career on one season,” Ibrahimovic said.
“If you do not do a good season, people will say the rest of the things you did before were useless because you didn’t make it in England, but that triggered me and that’s the challenge I wanted.”
Ibrahimovic added: “I went against everyone and said that’s what I wanted to do. They thought I was too old, I was 35 and I made the Premier League look old.
“It took me three months to convince everyone who I was. That was the challenge and I never turn down a challenge.”
Ibrahimovic said he had felt “unbreakable.. like Superman” before suffering his serious knee injury, and wanted to be able to give United “the Zlatan that you are used to” before making a comeback.
“That first year at United we had a fantastic year. They made me feel like Benjamin Button. I was getting younger and younger, then unfortunately I got my injury,” he said.
“I came to the right club in United. It was the club and the shirt that I was supposed to shine in and I did it.”