Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic has admitted watching his national team from home rather than being in the thick of the action has been ‘very strange.’
Ibrahimovic, accustomed to being the heartbeat and figurehead of the Sweden team for the majority of his career, is now only a spectator following his retirement earlier in the year.
The Manchester United striker hung up his international boots following Euro 2016 and – in his absence – Sweden have won two and drawn one of their four World Cup qualifying matches, narrowly losing the fourth to France.
And the 35-year-old talisman has revealed the routine of now having to watch from home, and having several days off during the international break as a result, is taking some getting used to.
‘The first time, it felt very strange,’ Ibrahimovic said in an interview with FIFA this week.
‘It felt different. I sat at home – I had three or four days off, and that doesn’t happen a lot – and I watched the others running around, working out, training and playing games.
‘I was imagining myself doing it, but unfortunately I wasn’t there.’
Ibrahimovic’s final game in a Sweden shirt came in June, when a 1-0 defeat to Belgium in Nice saw Sweden eliminated from Euro 2016 in the group stage.
The defeat brought the curtain down on what had been an illustrious international career for the striker, but Ibrahimovic maintains he would change nothing.
‘But there’s nothing I regret. What’s done is done. What I experienced with the national team is indescribable.
‘I could sit here all day, every day for a few weeks, and just talk about everything I experienced. 99 per cent of it was positive. One per cent was where you don’t succeed all the way, win a tournament, but we had a brilliant time.’
Now in the Premier League with United, Ibrahimovic can focus purely on his domestic football.
And the former PSG man now believes his nation could be better off as a result, in that his absence has relieved an element of pressure upon the Sweden team.
‘The new team is in a different position. They have no pressure from within, they have no pressure from outside, there is nobody who expects anything,’ said Ibrahimovic.
‘Before, because we had established players, we were going to win the European Championship, we were going to win the World Cup. It was taken for granted that we’d qualify.
‘Now they ask, “Will we get there?” If we do, it’s fantastic. If we don’t, it’s still ok.
‘We lost against France but it was still a ‘damn good game’. If I was there and we’d lost it would have been, “We should have won”.
‘It says everything about the level I was at. And I appreciate that, because I put the pressure on myself, to succeed and win all the time,’ he added.