Former AC Milan Legend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic said footballers move to Saudi Arabia are risking their legacies because of money rather than talent.
The Sweden international, 42, retired in June after a trophy-laden career.
The former Manchester United and Barcelona striker said he received offers from China and Saudi Arabia during his time as active player.
“I think players that reach a certain level, they have to stop at a certain stage – the big stage,” he said.
High profile players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Riyad Mahrez, Karim Benzema and England midfielder Jordan Henderson have moved to Saudi Arabia in the last 12 months.
The Saudi Pro League has been on a mass recruitment drive since the start of 2023 and four of its top clubs – Al-Ahli, Al-Ittihad, Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr – were taken over by the state Public Investment Fund (PIF) which also owns Newcastle United earlier this year.
Having spent time playing for an array of Europe’s most prestigious clubs, Ibrahimovic joined MLS side LA Galaxy from United in 2018 before returning for a second spell with AC Milan, helping them win the title in 2021-22.
In his final season he only played four times and started one match, scoring one goal, following a series of injuries.
“I had an offer also from China, I had an offer also from Saudi,” he said in an interview with Piers Morgan. “But the situation is, what do you want? What objectives do you have?
“You have to be remembered for your talent, not for what you earned.
‘What we are training every day for, what we are being recognised for is our talent, and that is what you want to be remembered for.
“You cannot [move to] a lower stage and finish your career in a different way. But some players needed the situations where you can earn a lot of money because they didn’t earn enough.”
Saudi Arabia’s increased investment in sport in recent years has proven controversial because of the country’s poor human rights record, with the rights of women, treatment of LGBTQ+ people and the use of the death penalty coming under scrutiny.
Henderson, a vocal ally of the LGBTQ+ community during his time at Liverpool, was criticised after he made a surprise move to Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq. He later said the criticism, which included one LGBTQ+ fans’ group saying he had “lost the respect of so many people”, “really hurt” and that “money has never been a motivation.”
Ibrahimovic says the moral concerns raised by playing in Saudi Arabia would not be a problem for him.
“Listen, wherever you play football, it’s football,” he added. “Football connects people. It’s a dream we share.
“As a professional football player, as long as you play football [that’s enough]. And Saudi is growing. MLS is growing. China had a peak and then I don’t know [why] the situation changed there.
“But a moral thing? No. We do things for ourselves and our family. Who will judge you in five or 10 years when you have a wealthy, healthy life?
“Nothing is for free – you [Morga
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