Sweden manager Janne Andersson has dismissed the prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming out of retirement for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The 36-year-old retired from international football following an unsuccessful Euro 2016 to concentrate on working hard under Jose Mourinho.
However, Sweden’s surprise win over Italy in their World Cup playoff has prompted many into thinking that Zlatan, just like Zinedine Zidane in 2006, could come out of retirement to feature in the finals next year.
But Andersson, speaking after the 0-0 draw in Milan which guaranteed his side’s place at the World Cup, was quick to rubbish these claims.
“This is incredible! This player [Ibrahimovic] has just stopped to play with Sweden one year and a half ago and we are still here talking about him,” he said.
“Gosh, we need to talk about the great players we have in this team I believe.
“What I wanted to say was that this was the demonstration that our collective acted like this during the whole length of the play-offs.
“We have many heroes tonight. I am a bit moved but obviously very happy with the result. When Ibrahimovic was here with us we played a different style of football.
“Considering that he has decided to leave international football, he is a great champion, but we had to adapt and found another style.”
You can understand Andersson’s frustration here. His side has just produced one of the finest performances in their country’s recent history and secured a place at the World Cup for the first time since 2006, and the two questions first put to him in the press room afterwards were about a man who hasn’t played for Sweden in 18 months.
Of course, the prospect of a 36-year-old Zlatan returning to front Sweden’s attack at the World Cup is tantalising to say the least, but at the same time actually makes little sense.
Andersson’s side adopted a fresh style following Zlatan’s retirement – one placing emphasis on remaining tight and attacking either in the air or on the break – that developed with each game and deservedly booked them a place on the biggest of stages next year.
Taking Zlatan back now would be tantamount with admitting that the system used to qualify for the World Cup won’t suffice for when they actually step onto the pitch in Russia.