Ibrahimovic buys stake in Swedish soccer team Hammarby

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in Swedish soccer, not as a player but as the part-owner of a club.

The country’s biggest sports star outlined his desire to make Hammarby the “best in Scandinavia” after buying nearly 25% of the Stockholm-based club in his first move into soccer ownership.

“There are no limits to how big Hammarby can be,” Ibrahimovic told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in its Wednesday edition.

Ibrahimovic has acquired half of the 47% stake in Hammarby owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, the U.S.-based company whose portfolio of sports teams it owns or has investments in includes the Los Angeles Galaxy — the Major League Soccer team where Ibrahimovic played for the past 18 months.

By buying 50% of AEG Sweden, the 38-year-old Ibrahimovic owns nearly a quarter of Hammarby.

Hammarby finished third in Sweden’s top league this season — behind champion Djurgarden and Ibrahimovic’s former club, Malmo — and will play in the Europa League next year.

“Spontaneously, the timing feels good,” Hammarby chairman Richard von Yxkull said. “We have had a strong development in recent years and next year we play in Europe.

“To then get a person like Zlatan Ibrahimovic into the club, with the passion and winning mentality he stands for, feels right.”

Ibrahimovic, who retired from international duty in 2016 and is regarded as one of Sweden’s greatest ever players, had in recent days posted a photo of Hammarby’s green-and-white jersey on his social media accounts, sparking speculation in his native country that he may join the club as a player having recently left LA Galaxy.

However, he says he will not play in Sweden again — he started his career at Malmo, where he was born, in 1999 — and is still weighing up where to play next. Ibrahimovic, the pony-tailed striker who is one of the most recognizable players in the world, has also played for Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United in an illustrious, globetrotting career.

At the Galaxy, he scored 56 goals in 52 games in MLS.

The decision to invest in Hammarby is unlikely to go down well at Malmo, where a statue of Ibrahimovic was unveiled last month.

Kaveh Hosseinpour, vice-chairman of a Malmo supporters’ group, told Swedish broadcaster SVT Sport that the club great had “burnt all bridges with Malmo.”

“What I have done for Malmo will be there forever,” Ibrahimovic said, when asked if he is concerned Malmo fans will be disappointed. “This is a completely different situation. It has nothing to do with where my career began.”

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Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this story

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More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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