He left his mark on Old Trafford in just one year, but are there more chapters to add to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Manchester United story?
The Swede, without a club as he recovers from a serious knee injury, has been making fine progress as he looks for more personal success in the twilight years of his career.
Here, we look at the likelihood of a return to United in the winter…
How is recovery going?
Despite the 35-year-old’s contract coming to an end at United, he has carried on his rehabilitation at the club’s Carrington training complex.
To some that’s as clear an indication as you need that his next move will be to United, but having started the process in April, with 10 games of the season remaining, logistically it made sense for Ibrahimovic to continue working in Manchester. And let’s face it, the mutual respect between club and player is there in abundance.
There were initial doubts over whether the veteran would play again due to the severity of his injury at this late stage of his career, but Ibrahimovic has progressed well.
He’s been active on social media, showing off the strength in his right knee with a short video of him working out on a leg extension machine, and most recently taking on a freestyler with some keepy-ups in a car park.
Is he making a statement to potential suitors, or are these posts any less parading than those from a fully fit Zlatan?
Timescale-wise, January still looks to be on the cards, but don’t rule out return to full fitness in December.
United have moved on, for now, and replaced the Swede with Romelu Lukaku. That’s not to say Jose Mourinho won’t want him back in January, but the bulk of transfer talk up to now has been away from Old Trafford.
AC Milan are the latest side to be heavily linked, as they continue to overhaul their squad in a summer that has seen several Serie A sides make big statements in the transfer market.
But Sky Sports understands Ibrahimovic still desperately wants to win the Champions League, the one trophy that has evaded him throughout a glittering 18-year career.
Zlatan’s love affair with United has parallels with his short stint in Milan – he scored 56 goals in 85 games between 2010 and 2012 – but with Vincenzo Montella’s side not in the Champions League next season, Zlatan may bide his time and look elsewhere.
What about MLS? LA Galaxy are the only side we know for sure have made Zlatan an offer.
“We have an incredible relationship with Zlatan and his agent,” he said. “He loves our club, and he loves LA. We have an interest in him. I think, for now, he wants to stay in Europe. Our doors are open for a player like that.”
Atletico Madrid were briefly linked in June, while Hertha Berlin jokingly baited Ibrahimovic in a tweet by saying he could win the Bundesliga for the first time.
His destination is likely to depend on club form up until winter; if United are struggling, in need of leadership up top, Zlatan could be an easy solution.
What they’ve said
Asked in July about the likelihood of a return to Old Trafford, Mourinho said: “It’s possible. He is open.
“Obviously we leave the door open for him to recover with us. Old Trafford, Carrington is open for him to recover and be one of us and, at the same time, let’s make a decision that will make us all happy.
“If that decision is to stay and for us to wait until December, maybe, because I don’t think he can be back in competitive football before December, then why not wait for such a good player that gave us so much?
“We are speaking, exchanging ideas, and again it is in the hands of Mr [Ed] Woodward and Zlatan’s agent, but it’s important the final decision is with the player.”
And any re-signing would not be for nostalgic purposes. His former team-mates would welcome Zlatan back with open arms, such was his impact on and off the pitch in the 2016/17 season.
“Obviously Zlatan is a leader, always a big leader,” Paul Pogba said earlier this summer. “And he’s still a big leader because he’s still in the team, even he’s not playing he’s a leader outside of the pitch.”
Dutchman Daily Blind told NBC Sports: “He would again be another big signing. Last year he gave a big boost to the team. He is still a great player and great person and he makes everything better.”
United are favourites to be Ibrahimovic’s next club at 8/11, followed by any MLS club at 6/4.
AC Milan are relatively long at 10/1, while fellow Serie A clubs Juventus (16/1) and Napoli (25/1) are outside shots.
Celtic are also 25s, Inter and Everton are 28s, while Zenit, Liverpool and former clubs PSG and Malmo are 33s.Euro Soccer Bonus
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