Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 500th goal in club football was like so many of those that had come before it. Baiting the defence to come and take the ball off him, the slick pass-and-move, the accomplished top-corner finish.
Anyone who thought the Swede was well past it at the age of 39 should probably think again and this momentous milestone could yet convince AC Milan to extend his playing career into his 40s.
After all, when Zlatan is still scoring twice in a win that returns you to the top of the Serie A table, surely he’s worth another few months at least?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted his 500th club goal of his career as AC Milan beat Crotone
The Swedish striker fires high into the net for the first of his two goals and No 500
The 39-year-old netted his 14th goal of the league season to make it 2-0 after 64 minutes
The first of his double in Milan’s 4-0 win over Crotone at the San Siro on Sunday meant Zlatan joined Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo this century in reaching the 500 club goal mark.
That goal was his 82nd for the club – his second of the afternoon in the 64th minute was No 83 – over his two spells in Milan red and black.
His goals by club
156 – Paris Saint-Germain
83 – AC Milan
66 – Inter Milan
53 – LA Galaxy
48 – Ajax
29 – Manchester United
26 – Juventus
22 – Barcelona
18 – Malmo
Only the 156 he scored in four prolific seasons with Paris Saint-Germain counts for more in the breakdown by club, a spell which included a scarcely believable 50 in 51 matches in 2015-16.
Ibrahimovic scored 18 times for Malmo at the beginning of his career, followed by 48 for Ajax, 26 for Juventus, 66 for Inter Milan, 22 for Barcelona, 83 over his two AC Milan spells, 156 for PSG, 29 for Manchester United and 53 for Los Angeles Galaxy in an illustrious career.
In all, it’s a return of 501 goals in 825 matches and that’s before you factor in the 62 goals in 116 games for Sweden not included in this particular milestone.
Zlatan has exceeded 20 goals in 13 seasons during his career and scored over 30 in a cmpaign five times.
His time at PSG was undoubtedly his most prolific, with returns of 35, 41, 30 and 50 across all competitions during four seasons at the Parc des Princes.
Other noteworthy returns include the 29 in 47 scored for Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in 2008-09 prior to his ill-timed move to Barcelona that saw him miss out on winning the Treble.
Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring for Paris Saint-Germain during his prolific time there
He proved he could handle English football by scoring 28 times for Manchester United
His first permanent season with AC Milan saw 35 goals in 44 games, while let’s not forget his first season with Man United saw a return of 28 in 46, obliterating the prediction the Premier League would be too tough for a striker getting on a bit even then.
The MLS was obviously to his liking and in 2019 he averaged a goal a game (31 in 31) for LA Galaxy.
Even this season, as he approaches his 40th birthday in October, Ibrahimovic has netted 16 in 17 games as Milan mount their first genuine push for the Scudetto in many years.
What about his victims? Saint-Etienne have been on the receiving end of Zlatan’s goals more than any other club with 17 in 15 meetings.
FIVE OF ZLATAN’S BEST GOALS
Here’s five of his best and for this we will be taking in his international career, for obvious reasons, starting with…
THAT outrageous overhead kick against England
Undoubtedly the most audacious goal scored by a man who specialises in audacious goals.
After England goalkeeper Joe Hart raced out to clear ahead of Zlatan but only succeeded in heading the ball up in the air, the Sweden striker produced a sensational overhead kick from 30 yards out into the empty net.
It was his fourth goal of the night as Sweden won 4-2 and a moment so sublime it won that year’s FIFA Puskas Award for Goal of the Year.
Ibrahimovic’s 30-yard overhead kick goal for Sweden against England is one of his best
It was the fourth of four goals scored by the striker that evening as Sweden won 4-2
How on earth did that go in?
Zlatan has often been accused of not delivering on the biggest stage but he certainly showed up at Euro 2004 with what can only be described as a back-heel flick lob against Italy.
Five minutes remained and Sweden were desperately chasing an equaliser when Italy failed to clear a corner. As the ball popped up, Ibrahimovic ran in front of keeper Gianluigi Buffon, somehow spun around and flicked the ball over the defender on the line and in.
It ultimately proved decisive as Italy exited after the group stage and Sweden went through.
Ibrahimovic somehow finds the net with a back-heel flick lob against Italy in 2004
The late equaliser helped Sweden into the quarter-finals of Euro 2004 at Italy’s expense
‘My 500th victim’
If you combine club and country goals, Zlatan reached the 500 mark back in September 2018 when he scored for LA Galaxy against Toronto in MLS.
It wasn’t any ordinary goal, though, but a ridiculous full swivel karate-kick style finish which again got him nominated for the Puskas Award.
‘I am happy for Toronto because they’ll be remembered as my 500th victim,’ said the characteristically modest striker afterwards. Less well remembered is that LA lost 5-3.
A ridiculous spinning finish by Ibrahimovic for LA Galaxy against Toronto in 2018
The audacious finish certainly ranks among the best the Swede has scored for his clubs
Taking them all on
Ibrahimovic had risen slowly to prominence at Ajax but a brilliant individual goal against NAC Breda in August 2004, which drew comparisons with Diego Maradona, boosted his profile across Europe.
The most outrageous thing about it isn’t that Ibrahimovic beats four Breda players and the goalkeeper but that he beats at least two of them twice.
Just put your foot through it, son
Many of his best goals have relied on flicks and tricks but there’s always something to be said for just putting your foot through the ball and wellying it at goal.
Playing for Inter Milan against Fiorentina, he smacks a 32-metre free-kick with such power and accuracy the goalkeeper was left with little chance despite it being so far out.
A very satisfying clip off the underside of the crossbar with this one as well.
He’s netted 12 against both Roma and Palermo, 11 against both Marseille and Nice, and scored 10 against Inter Milan, Parma and Bastia.
Zlatan’s penalty record is also highly impressive though not entirely surprising for a man who doesn’t seem to feel any pressure on the field.
Of 91 club penalties, he’s scored 77 of them, equating to a conversion rate of 84.6 per cent.
Given he’s played for three different Italian clubs in four spells, it comes as little surprise that most of his goals have come in Serie A – 146 in 248 games.
Ligue 1 comes next as a result of the avalanche of goals scored for PSG with a highly impressive 113 in 122 matches in France’s top division.
Celebrating one of 66 goals for Inter Milan during his successful three seasons with the club
Prior to that, the Swede led the line at Juventus alongside Alessandro Del Piero
His two spells with AC Milan have now yielded 83 goals over his two spells with the club
Goals by opposition
17 – Saint-Etienne
12 – Roma, Palermo
11 – Marseille, Nice
10 – Inter Milan, Parma, Bastia
Despite scoring 48 goals in the competition for seven different clubs, Ibrahimovic, famously, has never won the Champions League and is certainly running short of time to do so.
He won the UEFA Europa League with Man United in 2017 and the FIFA Club World Cup with Barcelona in 2009.
And his haul of domestic silverware is pretty much unsurpassed anywhere in the game after league title triumphs in Holland, Italy, Spain and France.
A seventh Serie A title – including the two won at Juventus later revoked by the Calciopoli scandal – will be his next ambition with Milan two points clear of Inter at the top of the table.
With his combined club and country career total now standing at 563, he may yet reach 600 goals overall – probably at some point next season.
Ibrahimovic does, after all, continue to defy time itself.