STOCKHOLM/MILAN: Record marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been recalled by Sweden five years after announcing his retirement.
The 39-year-old scored 62 goals in 116 internationals before quitting after the team’s Euro 2016 group-stage exit.
He opened the door to a return in a newspaper interview in November 2020 and Sweden coach Janne Andersson then flew to Milan to meet with the striker. Ibrahimovic has scored 14 goals in 14 Serie A appearances for AC Milan this season.
Sweden face Georgia on March 25 then Kosovo three days later in their opening two 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Ibrahimovic has responded to Sweden’s announcement of their squad by tweeting: “The return of the God.”
“He can be a little bit funny at times,” Andersson said when told about the striker’s tweet during an online news conference. “First and foremost he is a very good footballer, the best we have had in Sweden. It’s obviously very good that he wants to come back.
“Apart from what he can contribute on the field, he has incredible experience and can contribute that to the other players in the team.”
The 6ft 5in striker made his international debut as a 19-year-old against the Faroe Islands and scored in his first competitive match – a qualifier for the 2002 World Cup against Azerbaijan.
He was appointed captain for Euro 2012 qualifying and scored one of the best goals of the finals with a volley in a 2-0 win over France, although Sweden were eliminated at the group stage.
The former Barcelona, Paris St-German, Manchester United and LA Galaxy striker rejoined AC Milan on a six-month deal – with the option for another season – in January 2020.
Ibrahimovic scored 29 goals in 53 games for United, who agreed to an early termination of his contact, before he joined MLS side Galaxy in 2018.