Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Career so Far in 25 Pictures and GIFs

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2013

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Career so Far in 25 Pictures and GIFs

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Trying to imagine the football world without Zlatan Ibrahimovic at present is a very difficult task.

    But with the mercurial Swede now 32 years old, it is something we will have to start facing up to sooner rather than later.

    For more than a decade, Ibra has provided us with moments of absolute brilliance, controversy and sheer audacity.

    However, his colourful career has not yet reached its final chapter, you sense.

    Currently with Paris Saint-Germain and in unstoppable form in Ligue 1 at present, Ibrahimovic is arguably in the form of his life.

    Here are 25 highlights from the talismanic striker's career so far in pictures and GIFs.

     

1999-2001: Malmo and Sweden

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    In 1999, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was promoted to Malmo FF's first team as the side battled against relegation from the Allsvenskan.

    Then just 18 years old, he scored once but could not prevent Malmo from slipping down into the Superettan.

    However, the next season (2000), Ibrahimovic scored 12 league goals (third highest tally in the league). he became hot property and helped to secure his side's return to the top flight.

    In January of 2001, he made his debut for the Swedish national team against the Faroe Islands and later featured in a friendly against England (pictured).

    Ibrahimovic played half of the Allsvenskan season (spring until autumn of each year) with Malmo that term.

    But by the time the 2001 campaign got underway, he had already been snapped up by Ajax and moved to the Netherlands in time for the start of the Dutch 2001-2002 season.

     

     

    Malmo Honours:

    None - Malmo were promoted back to the Allsvenskan as runners-up in the Superettan.

     

2001: Joins Ajax

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    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Months after signing for Ajax from Malmo back in March of 2001, Ibrahimovic finally debuted for the Dutch giants at the start of the Dutch 2001-2002 campaign.

    Initially he played under Co Adriaanse and found himself out of favour. However, Adriaanse was sacked in November and new coach Ronald Koeman was a bigger fan of the rangy striker than his predecessor.

    Ibrahimovic scored six league goals, two in the UEFA Cup and one in the Dutch Cup as the Amsterdammers won the Eredivisie title for the 28th time in their history.

    Ajax also won the Dutch Cup with the Swede scoring the winning goal in injury time against FC Utrecht at De Kuip. 

     

2002: World Cup in Japan and South Korea

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    At the end of the Dutch season in which Ibrahimovic celebrated his first two major trophies, he was called up to Sweden's 2002 World Cup squad for the tournament in Japan and South Korea.

    Aged just 20, Lars Lagerback and Tommy Soderberg's side made it to the last 16, where they were eventually eliminated by Senegal.

    Ibrahimovic featured twice in that tournament; once fleetingly against Argentina in the group stages and then towards the latter stages of their final match against Senegal.

    Within two years he would become an undisputed starter for the Blue-Yellow.

     

2002-2004: Ajax and That Goal vs. NAC Breda

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    The 2002-2003 season went well individually for Ibrahimovic and he won the Super Cup at the start of the campaign.

    Ibra bagged 13 goals in the Eredivisie as well as five in the Champions League and three in the Dutch Cup that term, but it was not enough to prevent PSV Eindhoven from sneaking the title by one point.

    One year later though, the Swede scored 13 goals for Ajax in the league and two in Europe as Ronald Koeman's side won their second title under the Dutchman.

    It was Ibrahimovic's second Eredivisie title in the space of three seasons, but friction between him and home-grown star Rafael van der Vaart threatened to undermine his overall contribution.

    At the start of the 2004-2005 season, a now 22-year-old Ibra scored three goals.

    Those three included a Goal of the Year effort (as voted for by Eurosport viewers) against NAC Breda, before being sold to Italian giants Juventus

     

     

    Ajax Honours:

    2- Eredivisie

    1- Dutch Cup (KNVB Cup)

    1- Johan Cruijff Shield (Dutch Super Cup)

     

     

2004: European Championship in Portugal and That Goal vs. Italy

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Prior to the start of the 2004-2005 season and Ibrahimovic's wonder goal against NAC Breda that preceded his move to Italy, he was part of the Swedish national side that went to the 2004 European Championship in Portugal.

    Now an undisputed starter for the Swedes, he scored an incredible back-heeled volley goal in a 1-1 draw against Italy in their Group C encounter.

    The Italians were eliminated in the group stage thanks to the points dropped in conceding this late equaliser.

    It was voted Goal of the Tournament, and Ibrahimovic helped lead Sweden all the way to the quarterfinals, where they were knocked out by the Netherlands on penalties. Ibra missed his spot kick.

     

2004: Joins Juventus

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    Giuseppe Cacace/Getty Images

    After scoring one of his best-ever goals against NAC Breda and knocking Italy out of Euro 2004 with his outrageous equaliser, Ibrahimovic was sold to Serie A giants Juventus for €16 million.

    Although the Swede made a good first impression with 16 league goals in his first full season at the club, he was far from a complete player at that point.

    Coach Fabio Capello's influence helped shape him into a different player.

    Ibrahimovic's 16 goals for the Italians helped them to win the 2004-2005 Scudetto (Serie A title), while he was named Player of the Year at the club and also voted Best Foreign Player in Italian football.

     

2005-2006: Second Serie A Title with Juventus

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    New Press/Getty Images

    Ibrahimovic's second campaign in Turin was less impressive, but that was in part due to a change in role after the Juve hierarchy decided he was better suited to being a target man.

    The Swede only managed seven league goals that season, and although he started to provide more for his teammates, it was a largely forgettable season individually.

    However, Ibrahimovic did win a second consecutive Serie A title. He also scored three goals in the Champions League.

    Capello's side secured what was at that time a 28th Italian championship, although it was soon to be stripped.

    In 2005, Ibrahimovic was awarded his first Swedish Guldbollen. At the time of writing in 2013, he has now won the prize an unprecedented eight times.

     

     

    Juventus Honours:

    2- Serie A (Scudetto) *Both were later removed due to the Calciopoli hearings.

     

2006: World Cup in Germany

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Now 24, Ibrahimovic leads Sweden (now coached only by Lagerback and no longer both he and Soderberg) to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

    Despite scoring four times in one match against Malta in qualifying for the tournament, Ibrahimovic failed to score at all during the actual competition itself.

    Although he was not on target, Sweden still emerged from the group stages before being knocked out by the host nation in the last 16.

     

2006-2007: Joins Inter Milan

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    New Press/Getty Images

    At the end of the 2006 campaign, Juventus were demoted to Serie B because of their role in Calciopoli and stripped of the two titles Ibrahimovic had won at the Stadio delle Alpi.

    A messy divorce followed, but as we will see, the Swede’s exit from Turin proved to be the making of him.

    Ibrahimovic was sold to Inter Milan for €24.8 million that summer, shortly after Patrick Vieira had made the same move. 

    In his first season with Roberto Mancini's side, he won the season-opening Super Cup before going on to score 15 goals to help Inter to a first Serie A title in 18 years.

    Although Inter had been awarded the 2005-2006 title by the courts following the Calciopoli hearings, the 2006-2007 triumph was their first on the pitch since 1988-1989.

    Ibrahimovic won his second Guldbollen award and would go on to win it for the next six consecutive years (he still holds the title after winning it again in 2013). 

     

2008: Second Scudetto with Inter Milan

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    New Press/Getty Images

    Now 26 and into his second season with Inter Milan, Ibrahimovic made huge strides in his ability to function as the focal point of a side’s attack, laying on nine goals, but also scoring 17.

    Ibrahimovic added five goals in the Champions League, too, and Inter secured the Serie A title for a second consecutive season under Mancini.

    As well as picking up another winner's medal, Ibrahimovic was named Best Foreign Player and Best Overall Player in Italy that year.

    He was also voted into UEFA's team of the season for the first time in his career.

     

2008: European Championship in Austria and Switzerland

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    At the 2008 European Championship in Austria and Switzerland, Lagerback was once again at the helm for Sweden and Ibrahimovic came into the tournament on a bad run of form internationally.

    The mercurial talent ended an almost two-year goal drought with his strike in their Group D opening clash vs. Greece.

    Despite going on to score again, this time against Spain in their next group game, the Swedes were eliminated in their final Group D encounter with Russia.

    Ibrahimovic finished the tournament with two goals.

     

2009: Third Serie A Title with Inter Milan

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    New Press/Getty Images

    Jose Mourinho replaced Mancini as Inter Milan coach in the summer of 2008.

    Under the Portuguese, Ibrahimovic went on to have the most prolific domestic season of his career, at that point.

    With 25 goals and seven assists to his name, he maintained a high level of productivity and set the standard for the seasons to come.

    That success in Italy did not translate on the European stage though.

    Ibrahimovic was about to make the move that should have brought him the European success that he craved and also merited.

     

     

    Inter Milan Honours:

    3- Serie A

    2- Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup)

     

2010: Sweden Fail to Qualify for World Cup in South Africa

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Before Ibrahimovic's next big move, he experienced failure on the international stage for the first time in his career.

    The talismanic Swede, now approaching 28, failed to help his country qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Blue-Yellow finished third in Group 1, behind Denmark and Portugal.

    The Swedes were only one point behind the second-placed Portuguese and four goals worse off, but their 1-0 defeat away to Denmark in the penultimate qualifier cost them their place in South Africa.

     

2010: Joins Barcelona

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Ibrahimovic arrived in Barcelona in 2009 amid much fanfare with an estimated value of €66million.

    The Swede arrived in part exchange for Samuel Eto’o who went on to win the Champions League the following season with Mourinho’s Nerazzurri. 

    The solitary season that followed for him in Spain is largely thought of as a failure, despite his good overall record.

    Ibrahimovic scored 16 league goals, in a new country and playing a totally different style of football.

    He also added four goals in the Champions League, one in the Spanish Cup and was voted into UEFA's team of the year for a second time in his career.

    On top of that, he also provided seven assists in a team that boasts the creative talents of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. That's no small feat.

     

2010-2011: Ibra vs. the Philosopher

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Ibrahimovic's career has witnessed plenty of ups and downs and moments of controversy.

    From storming out of training sessions, feuding with Rafael van der Vaart, coming to blows with Oguchi Onyewu at AC Milan (still to come at this point), minor scuffles with other teammates to unauthorised nights out, the Swede has seen (and done) it all.

    But arguably the most acrimonious chapter in Ibra’s career to date came in his short-lived spell at Barcelona.

    His stay at the Camp Nou ended abruptly thanks to his fractious relationship with then coach Pep Guardiola, causing plenty of controversy.

    The talismanic striker speaks at length about Guardiola's cold relationship with him in his international bestselling autobiography I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the feud obviously still rankles today.

    Despite boasting a better record than a number of Barcelona's big-name foreign signings of the past had done in their debut seasons in Catalonia (notable Thierry Henry and Patrick Kluivert), Ibrahimovic was given little choice but to leave the Camp Nou after falling foul of Lionel Messi's brilliance.

    Guardiola may have won the battle, but Ibrahimovic could yet win the war should the two meet again in the near future.

     

     

    Barcelona Honours:

    1- La Liga

    2- Supercopa de Espana (Spanish Super Cup)

    1- UEFA Super Cup

    1- FIFA Club World Cup

     

2011: Joins AC Milan

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Opting to return to Italy to end a difficult period in Spain, despite leaving Barcelona as a league and Club World Cup winner, Ibrahimovic joined AC Milan in 2011.

    An initial return to Milan on loan after just one year away from Italy did not mean an immediate return to previous form though.

    In his first season at AC Milan, he was not as prolific as he was in previous seasons with Inter, actually posting his lowest league goals tally since his time at Juventus with just 14.

    Curiously, though, it was also his most productive season until that point, with the Swede notching 11 assists.

     

2011: Wins Scudetto with AC Milan

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    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Now 29 years old, Ibrahimovic was not quite back to his absolute best in his first season with Milan and injuries played their part in that.

    Despite those issues, Massimiliano Allegri's side still managed to bring home their first title in seven years and the Swede played an important role nontheless.

    On a personal note, it was Ibrahimovic's sixth Scudetto victory (although the two with Juventus are often not recognised because of Calciopoli).

    It was also enough to convince Milan to buy him outright from Barcelona, officially ending his Spanish nightmare.

     

2012: AC Milan

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    The next campaign was arguably Ibrahimovic’s best season up until that point.

    He scored 28 goals, also laying on six, undoubtedly the focal point of the Milan side’s attack.

    It was his best showing since 2008-09 with bitter rivals Inter, recognised by being the top scorer for the first time since that season.

    Now 30, Ibrahimovic netted five times in eight Champions League outings and was once again elected as the best foreign player in Italy. 

    His excellent form also earned him the 2012 Golden Foot among other awards.

     

     

    AC Milan Honours:

    1- Serie A

    1- Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup)

     

2012: That Goal vs. France at European Championship in Ukraine and Poland

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Going into the 2012 European Championship in Ukraine and Poland, Ibrahimovic was the captain of the Swedish national team who were now coached by Erik Hamren.

    The talismanic striker had only recently returned from a self-imposed international exile that Hamren had coaxed him out of during qualifying.

    Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in Sweden's first game against hosts Ukraine, but his acrobatic strike against France in the final group-stage clash was voted Goal of the Tournament.

    Unfortunately for Ibrahimovic and Sweden, it was not enough to progress from Group D.

    They exited after a third-placed finish.

    Little did Ibra know that he had just provided an appetising taster for his next adoring fan base.

     

2012: Joins Paris Saint-Germain

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    Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

    That impressive form for AC Milan and Sweden paved the way for Ibrahimovic to move to French giants Paris Saint-Germain in July 2012 for an estimated fee of €20million.

    Shortly after his arrival at the Parc des Princes (although he was greeted by a rapturous crowd in front of the Eiffel Tower), he was joined by former Milan teammate and Brazilian international Thiago Silva.

    In his debut season, Ibrahimovic bettered the previous year’s 28-goal total in Italy with a 30-goal haul in France.

    That feat made the Swede the first Ligue 1 player since Marseille's Jean-Pierre Papin in 1990 to reach that mark.

    As well as his 30 goals, Ibra provided seven assists to cap his most productive season ever.

     

2012: That Goal vs. England

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Not long after joining PSG, the now 31-year-old Ibrahimovic was at it again for Sweden. This time his victims were England.

    The towering marksman hit a sensational four goals as the Blue-Yellow beat the Three Lions in the inaugural match at the Friends Arena in Solna. 

    His fourth strike, an outrageous overhead kick, was hailed by many as the best goal ever scored and earned him praise from all over the world.

    For PSG fans though, it was a taste of what was still to come in a season that would ultimately end in glory.

     

2012-2013: Wins Ligue 1 Title with PSG

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Ibrahimovic's insatiable domestic form contributed to PSG winning their first Ligue 1 trophy in 19 years in his first season with the capital club.

    As well as securing a long-awaited third domestic title, the mercurial Swede also led PSG to the quarterfinals of the Champions League after an eight-year absence from the competition.

    His three goals and seven assists inspired his new side to a 3-3 aggregate draw with his former side Barcelona, only suffering elimination on away goals.

    Ibrahimovic was named as the best Ligue 1 player of the season after a string of performances that practically single-handedly secured his side the results they needed to bring home the title.

    Despite the departure of coach Carlo Ancelotti for Real Madrid at the end of the campaign, Ibra eventually stayed put to start the current 2013-2014 season at the Parc des Princes.

     

    PSG Honours (at present):

    1- Ligue 1

    1- Trophee des Champions

     

     

2013: Hot Vein of Form at PSG

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    The 2013-2014 season may have started slowly for Ibrahimovic, but after a run of just two goals in nine games, he has made up for lost time.

    The Swede, now 32, has found his form and at present leads the Ligue 1 scoring chart with 14 goals from 17 starts.

    As well as successfully adapting to new strike partner Edinson Cavani, Ibrahimovic has now embraced his role as the team's most creative outlet and is in arguably the richest vein of form in his entire career.

    Incredibly, at the time of writing, Ibrahimovic has scored 57 goals and provided 22 assists in 69 matches across all competitions for the French champions.

    Included in that are the eight goals that he managed in PSG's Champions League group stage showing en route to the last 16.

    The Swede put four goals past RSC Anderlecht away from home in the French champions' third Group C encounter.

    Many thought that it would be impossible for Ibrahimovic to replicate last season's sensational form.

    But despite having scored fewer goals than he had managed at the same time last year, PSG's talisman is now arguably in the best form of his life and is getting better with age.

     

2013: The Return of the Scorpion Kick vs. Bastia

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    Another Bleacher Report Article

    Throughout his career, Ibrahimovic has been famed for his ability to dazzle fans with his sublime skills, to pull off the unthinkable and to score sensational goals.

    Arguably one of the best goals of his career came earlier on this year.

    One of Ibrahimovic's favoured moves is the scorpion kick and it features heavily in most compilation lists of the Swede's best goals.

    This strike against Bologna for Inter Milan is an example of a similar goal scored by the genius of Zlatan.

    Ibrahimovic surpassed himself in October though by pulling off the move perfectly, scoring a goal that courted massive attention across Europe against SC Bastia in a 4-0 PSG win.

     

2013: Sweden Fail to Qualify for World Cup in Brazil

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Despite the many positives for Ibrahimovic in the current season and from the past few years, his and Sweden's absence from next summer's World Cup is an undoubted low point.

    After being ousted in the World Cup qualifying play-offs by a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal side, Ibra declared that the tournament is "not worth watching" without him in it.

    Granted, it is hard to imagine next summer's showpiece event without the mercurial talent.

    However, it would have been equally difficult to picture it without Ronaldo.

    The Portuguese's sensational display even had Ibrahimovic himself applauding, though, as his side succumbed to a eventual 4-2 aggregate defeat after an almighty tussle in which the Swede scored twice.

    With his hopes of an appearance in Brazil dashed at 32, it is difficult to imagine him being the same player when the 2018 edition in Russia rolls around.

     

     

    Sweden International Career Statistics to date:

    48 goals in 96 appearances

     

What Next for Ibrahimovic?

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Although 2013 has not finished the way Ibrahimovic would have wanted it to, with Sweden failing to qualify for the World Cup, it has been one of the best calendar years of his career.

    PSG and the Swede are in imperious form at present. The European success that has proven so elusive for Ibra over the years may finally be forthcoming.

    2014 promises to be another exceptional year for Ibrahimovic, but will it be his last at the very top?

    At 32 years old, 33 by the time next season is getting underway, it is difficult to see him maintaining his current electric form despite his timeless genius.

    Ibrahimovic may still be at PSG, but his international career must now be drawing to a close with Euro 2016 (fittingly set to be hosted in France) the possible scene for a swan song.

    There is a long way to go until then though and the Swede no doubt has plans for a few new career chapters before calling it a day.

     

     

    Career Honours: 20 trophies and counting (minus the two with Juventus it is 18)

     

    Ajax:

    2- Eredivisie

    1- Dutch Cup (KNVB Cup)

    1- Johan Cruijff Shield (Dutch Super Cup)

     

    Juventus:

    2- Serie A (Scudetto) *Both were later removed due to the Calciopoli hearings.

     

    Inter Milan:

    3- Serie A

    2- Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup)

     

    Barcelona:

    1- La Liga

    2- Supercopa de Espana (Spanish Super Cup)

    1- UEFA Super Cup

    1- FIFA Club World Cup

     

    AC Milan:

    1- Serie A

    1- Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup)

     

    PSG (at present):

    1- Ligue 1

    1- Trophee des Champions

     

    Sweden International Career (at present):

    48 goals in 96 appearances

     

    2014?

     

    *All statistics thanks to soccerway.com, UEFA.com, ligue1.com and optasports.com (via Twitter).