STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Zlatan Ibrahimovic is finally over the serious knee injury that has kept him out of action for almost a year and a comeback for Manchester United is on the cards soon, the striker told Reuters.
The 36-year-old was speaking following the announcement of a new partnership with technology company Samsung under which Sweden’s record goalscorer will test and showcase new products for the South Korean firm.
Having sustained a bad knee injury in United’s Europa League quarter-final against Belgian side Anderlecht in April, 2017, Ibrahimovic last appeared for the Premier League club on Dec. 26 against Burnley.
He was replaced in that game at halftime and has since been confined to the sidelines, but asked when he would be pulling on the famous red shirt again, Ibrahimovic was clear.
“When I’m ready to perform. It’s all about that,” he said.
Widely regarded as Sweden’s greatest player, Ibrahimovic won league titles with Dutch side Ajax, Juventus, Inter and AC Milan in Italy, Spain’s Barcelona and French giants Paris St Germain before arriving at Old Trafford in 2016.
He has added a Europa League crown with United, watching the final in Stockholm from the stands on crutches, but with league leaders Manchester City 16 points ahead of second-placed United, it is very unlikely he will be crowned champion of England.
The Red Devils were also knocked out of the Champions League this week by Spanish side Sevilla and have only the FA Cup left to play for in terms of trophies, but Ibrahimovic is raring to go.
“I want to get to the point where I can perform as I haven’t been able to take part so much during the season,” he said before hinting at an international comeback for Sweden in this year’s World Cup in Russia.
“The thoughts are there the whole time, but if I want to, I’ll be there,” said Ibrahimovic, who quit the national team after Euro 2016 having scored 62 goals, many of them spectacular, in 116 games.
The partnership with Samsung is the latest in a long line of commercial deals for Ibrahimovic.
“It (technology) is an interest I’ve had for a long time and obviously it’s something I’m more involved with now that I’m partnering with Samsung. It’s great to get a different insight,” he said.
Asked how many cell phones he has, Ibrahimovic laughed.
“At the moment I have a couple from Samsung,” he said. “I’ve found a model that I like, I have one I use for everything - I use it for calling, messages, for going in and checking the news, everything that keeps you connected today.”
Despite his dependence on technology in everyday life, the powerful forward has not used any apps to aid his recovery.
“No, because everything about my body is a secret,” he said with his trademark blunt humour.
As the English season reaches its climax, managers, players and pundits have been at the centre of storms of criticism on social media in recent weeks, but it is not something that bothers Ibrahimovic.
“If you’re that weak mentally (that it bothers you), then you’re not the right man for the job. Just ignore those people, avoid it and do what you believe in,” he said.
Nor is he concerned by speculation linking him to one final lucrative move to China, the Middle East or Major League Soccer in the U.S. when his contract at Old Trafford runs out in June.
“Speculation has been there all my life. It’s about focusing on the right things and doing the right things,” he said.
“I still want to play. It’s nothing I can decide now, but the idea is to keep playing.”
Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond