Jose Mourinho has admitted that seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave Manchester United for LA Galaxy was a “sad moment”.
The Swede was brought to Old Trafford by Mourinho on a free transfer in July 2016 and he confounded his critics by plundering 28 goals in his opening campaign.
A severe knee ligament injury in April, however, marked the end of his time at the top, with the 36-year-old managing just two starts in his second campaign ahead of joining LA Galaxy last week.
And Mourinho, speaking at a press conference on Friday, paid tribute to what the man achieved and insisted that joining LA Galaxy was a good decision.
“For me it’s always sad when the big players go in the direction of the end,” he said.
“I remember for example [Luis] Figo, last match, with me and with Inter, and I always remember as one of my saddest moments because I always feel very very sorry when the big ones finish or go to the last period of their careers.
“Zlatan goodbye moment was more in that direction, he’s a huge big player that top football, European football is losing now and forever because he will not be back to this level of football. But fantastic for him in this period, is a fantastic way not to go from being a player to being a former player, this period with Galaxy, these couple of years will be very good for him and American football.
“What he can do, teach, attract, his personality, passion for football, he’s always had since his recovery was an example of what a pro should be is more the MLS and US as a football country is going to get, what more is Zlatan is going to get, will be just a way for him to enjoy the last couple of years of his football.”
Zlatan’s achievements will be remembered and admired long after he has passed from the public limelight. Appearing in senior football for the first time in 1999 as an ostracised teenager for Malmo, he spent nearly 20 years establishing himself as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time, becoming a national icon in the process.
His feats are so remarkable they deserve to be spelled out clearly, so here are a collection of numbers – and facts – which give some impression of his greatness.
– He claimed 33 trophies in his club career, just two fewer than Ryan Giggs.
– He has 215 club goals since turning 30. The closest after that is Henrik Larsson with 189.
– Nobody over the age of 35 scored as many goals in a single Premier League season.
– He reached double figures for league goals in every season from 2006 to 2017. Only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have managed to match that.
– He was the only player to score in the Champions League for six different teams (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain).
– He is one of only two players, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, to have scored a goal in every minute of a competitive game during their careers.
– He scored 493 competitive goals.
– His name has been officially trademarked in Sweden.
– He is miles better than all of us.
– And yes, he beat Mona Lisa in a staring competition.