Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sweden return: 'A World Cup without me wouldn't be a World Cup'

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has pledged to be at the World Cup in Russia this summer, telling television host Jimmy Kimmel it "wouldn't be a World Cup" if he wasn't there.

Ibrahimovic, who retired from international competition after Euro 2016, represented Sweden in the World Cup in 2002 and in 2006.

But the striker, who moved to LA Galaxy from Manchester United last month, has frequently expressed a desire to end that retirement after Sweden defeated Italy in a playoff to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 12 years.

"I'm going to the World Cup, yes," Ibrahimovic said Tuesday on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" when asked if he would play.

"Will you have cleats on the bottom of your shoes or will they be regular shoes?" Kimmel asked.

"I just said I'm going to the World Cup," Ibrahimovic said. "If I say more, people will hang me, so I have to be careful what I say now."

"They will?" Kimmel asked. "That seems like an extreme reaction to you wanting to play in a soccer match."

"I mean, a World Cup without me wouldn't be a World Cup," Ibrahimovic said.

Ibrahimovic opened the interview by joking about the full-page advertisement that appeared in the Los Angeles Times before completing his transfer, with Kimmel pointing out that most athletes will thank their communities after they have left a city.

"I've had my eyes on Los Angeles and I wanted to give them my gift," Ibrahimovic said. "I was thinking a long time and then one day it came -- like, 'I should give myself.' That's why I came -- and you're welcome."

He also acknowledged being surprised by his reception from fans upon arriving in Los Angeles but, in his typical confident fashion, said he understood it.

"In Europe, the football is huge, is big, so wherever I went ... people get crazy," Ibrahimovic said. "People told me, 'When you get to Los Angeles, don't worry. You can walk on the streets out there.' But since day one, no, it's busy everywhere. It's my own fault -- if you play the way I do, I mean."

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