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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to be sidelined for the next seven to eight months after undergoing knee surgery, prompting fears he may finally retire at the age of 40.
Ibrahimovic helped AC Milan clinch the Serie A title on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Sassuolo, with the striker winning the 32nd trophy of his illustrious career.
However, he has struggled with injuries throughout the season and has managed only eight goals in his 27 appearances this term.
Milan confirmed on Wednesday that Ibrahimovic had undergone surgery on his left knee and would miss the majority of next season if he decided to continue his playing career.
A club statement read: "AC Milan announces that today, Zlatan Ibrahimovic underwent an operation on his left knee by Dr Bertrand Sonnery-Cottet, in the presence of the Club Health Manager Stefano Mazzoni, at the Hopital Jean Mermoz in Lyon.
"Arthroscopy had long been planned to permanently resolve the instability of the joint through reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament, with lateral reinforcement and meniscal repair.
"The operation was perfectly successful and the prognosis is estimated at 7-8 months."
Ibrahimovic is out of contract with Milan next month and the news of his surgery has cast further doubt over his long-term future.
Zlatan Ibrahimović won’t be available at least for the next 7-8 months after undergoing knee surgery, AC Milan announce. 🚨🇸🇪 #ACMilan— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) May 25, 2022
Ibrahimović will now decide whether to continue playing football or not. Current deal expires in one month. pic.twitter.com/R9NOP0UEXs
After the win over Sassuolo, Ibrahimovic made a rousing speech to his Milan teammates in which he suggested he was planning to extend his stay at the club.
"Guys, stay calm. I'm not about to say goodbye," he said.
"From day one, when I arrived and then a few others arrived, very few believed in us. But then we realised we needed to make sacrifices, suffer, believe and work.
"When this happened we became a group and when you're a group you can achieve the things we've achieved. Now we're champions of Italy.
"First of all I want to thank all the players. I'm now talking on behalf of the team, we need to thank Paolo [Maldini], Ricky [Massara] and Ivan [Gazidis]. It hasn't been easy but we’ve been a real group this season.
"At the beginning of the season, no one believed in us but through those principles we became stronger.
8 months knee surgery at 41??— janne 🥷 (@JanneCule) May 25, 2022
No way he is coming back
But he is Ibra so we never know
Damn gutted for him he probably could have managed 1 more season but will have to hang up the boots now I reckon.— Inevitable Alonso (@Zealous_Zola_) May 25, 2022
Still he has had an outstanding career and playing at his level at the age of 40 is an achievement in itself
Legendary player. He should go out and retire at the top, because it will be a dream finish for one of the best players who ever lived!— Bann.Taylor (@bann_taylor) May 25, 2022
Took the challenge, and actually succeeded.— Saturnion :) (@saturnion13) May 25, 2022
Legend and hope he continues! pic.twitter.com/VUGuMCwwdj
"I'm very proud of all of you. Now do me a favour: celebrate like champions. Because it isn't Milan that belongs to AC Milan, it's Italy that belongs to AC Milan!"
However, some fans believe this could be the end of Ibrahimovic's professional career, which has also included memorable spells at Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.
One fan posted on Twitter: "8 months knee surgery at 41?? No way he is coming back. But he is Ibra so we never know."
Another added: "Damn gutted for him he probably could have managed 1 more season but will have to hang up the boots now I reckon.
"Still he has had an outstanding career and playing at his level at the age of 40 is an achievement in itself."
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