Door open for Sweden World Cup return, says Zlatan

Soccer Football - Champions League - Manchester United Training - Aon Training Complex, Manchester, Britain - February 20, 2018 Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic during training Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has opened the door for a return to the Swedish national team at this year’s World Cup in Russia if he can recover his fitness in time.

“We’ll see, it’s a tough question. I want to feel that I can perform and give back. I don’t want to come just because I’m somebody. The door isn’t closed for anything,” he said.

Speaking to reporters at the opening of his new paddle tennis centre in Stockholm, the 36-year-old added that it was hard to watch the Swedes play without him.

“I miss the national team. When you’ve played in the national team for 20 years and then you’re not in it anymore, and you see the others playing in the national team, it’s tough,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“It’s tough in general, when you think that I’m injured and not playing. I want to play, with the club team, with the national team, it’s the same thing. They (the Swedish national team) have done a good job,” he added.

Without him, Sweden came second to France in World Cup qualifying Group A, edging the Netherlands on goal difference, and then beat Italy in a playoff to reach the finals.

Ibrahimovic has struggled to recover from a serious knee injury sustained in April 2017 and he missed United’s Europa League final victory over Ajax Amsterdam in Stockholm last May.

Sweden’s record goalscorer with 62 goals in 116 games, Ibra quit after their exit at the Euro 2016 group stage but said even a phone call may not be necessary for him to return.

“I don’t think anyone needs to call. If I want to, I’m there, that’s how it is. But one thing at a time. When I can do what I want to, I’ll have other thoughts,” he said.

Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris