With more Swedish player of the year awards (eight) than anybody else, what more could Zlatan Ibrahimović have done to prove his standing in his homeland? Becoming his national side's all-time leading scorer on Thursday evening certainly did him no harm. "I think I've deserved it," said Ibrahimović after registering international goals 49 and 50 in the Solna friendly against Estonia.
Wind back the clock nearly 13 years, to 7 October 2001, and the venue was Råsunda. Minutes after coming off the bench, a 20-year old Ibrahimović smashed in his first goal for Sweden during a 3-0 victory against Azerbaijan in FIFA World Cup qualifying. The new kid on the Blågult block was a fans' favourite immediately, but his popularity has continued to grow – goal by spectacular goal – ever since.
Few players can boast a highlights reel to compete with the man all Swedish supporters have always been on first-name terms with. There is the flying back-heel against Italy in 2004, the right-footed rocket against Greece in 2008 and the scissor volley against France in 2012 – all those in UEFA European Championship final tournaments alone.
Furthermore, when Råsunda was replaced as Sweden's national stadium by the nearby Friends Arena, Ibrahimović made his mark right from the start. Indeed, by now his country's captain, he struck four in the opening fixture against England in October 2012, including the most acrobatic of overhead kicks imaginable.
Speaking after surpassing Sven Rydell's 82-year Sweden scoring record on Thursday, Ibrahimović was asked which of his 50 goals (and counting) he enjoyed the most. "My most beautiful goal was against England," the Paris Saint-Germain forward replied. "Nothing will ever beat that, but all goals are important, they all took me here to the record."
After netting his second against Estonia, Ibrahimović revealed a shirt displaying the words 'You made it possible' on the front and '50+' on the back. "We came up with the idea yesterday," he added. "I wanted to make a statement after breaking the record, but I needed to score two goals – so that's what I did."
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