Zlatan Ibrahimovic turns 35 but keeps getting better with age
By Tom Bennett
Last Updated: 03/10/16 12:08am
Manchester United's summer signing and first-choice centre-forward celebrates his 35th birthday on Monday, but time doesn't appear to be catching up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The birthday boy has scored six times so far in his fledgling United career - and came agonisingly close to adding to that tally against Stoke City on Sunday, when only the heroics of man of the match Lee Grant kept him at bay.
Shortly after his 34th birthday, Ibrahimovic compared himself to a fine wine. "I improve with age," he said. "I do not feel on the decline, quite the opposite. I still think I am making progress, even though I am getting older."
Does that hold true, almost 12 months on? We take a look...
Zlatan's best goal haul in his twenties was 29 in 47 goals for Inter Milan in 2008/09. But the year he turned 30 saw the striker break past the 30-goal mark for the first time, with 35 goals in 44 games - and he's barely looked back.
In his four seasons at Paris Saint-Germain he never dipped below 30 goals, racking up a phenomenal 156 in 180 matches. And while some claim that he was a flat-track bully, his goal-to-game ratio had already gone through the roof in that final season in Italy and has remained impressively high since his move to England.
There is an accepted step up from Ligue 1 to the Premier League, but Ibrahimovic has taken the move in his stride, scoring on his debut at Bournemouth, netting twice on his Old Trafford bow against Southampton and bagging a fourth in the Manchester derby.
Add to that a winner in the Community Shield and crucial strike in the Europa League against Zorya and there's plenty of evidence to suggest the Swede remains a potent goal threat.
Happy to assist
It's not just finishing that Ibrahimovic has improved since turning 30. He's become a better provider too, laying on a career high 13 goals in Ligue 1 last season - that's one assist in just over every two games, to complement his own phenomenal goalscoring record.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Ibrahimovic's surge in goal contributions came as a result of him becoming a more isolated, goal-hanging striker. But to the contrary, the stats suggest that Zlatan is actually becoming more involved in team play.
The forward's top three seasons for passes per game have all come since he turned 30, with his final season in Paris also seeing him record the highest pass success rate over the course of a campaign in his career.
Ibrahimovic takes his fitness seriously. He even brought his own personal physio, Dario Fort, with him to Manchester United. And the approach is paying off.
According to Manchester United, the forward 'broke power records' during his medical at the club, which is probably hyperbole but would explain how his appearance numbers have stayed remarkably high even in the later years of his career.
Three of Ibrahimovic's five busiest seasons have come in his 30s, while last season's tally of 51 games played for PSG was comfortably the most he's ever played in a campaign in his career.
He's played a part in every single one of Manchester United's games so far this season, dismissing suggestions Jose Mourinho would have to pick and choose when to unleash his striker.