Swedish paper Aftonbladet revealed two weeks ago that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is part-owner of Bethard, a betting company set in Malta. Now, UEFA (the European Football Association) is investigating the case.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic training
Zlatan Ibrahimovic training before the game against Benevento. (Image: Twitter/ACMilan)

Just days after the Swedish superstar renewed his contract with AC Milan until the summer of 2022, UEFA appointed an inspector to investigate Ibra’s involvement in the Bethard betting company. If found guilty, Ibrahimovic risks a fine of up to $120 000 and a ban that would basically end his career. The maximum punishment in these kinds of cases could see a player sidelined for up to three years.

Ibrahimovic, 39, was hoping to play at the highest level until 2023 when he’ll be almost 42. His goal is also to compete for Sweden at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. Ibrahimovic has yet to score in a world tournament, despite holding the record number of goals for the Scandinavian national team at 62.

What does UEFA say?

Alerted by the media, European football’s governing body reacted through a statement.

“In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations (DR), a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has today been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding a potential violation of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations by Mr. Zlatan Ibrahimovic for having an alleged financial interest in a betting company,” the message published by UEFA wrote. “Further information regarding this matter will be made available in due course.”

The rules that Ibrahimovic is thought to have broken refer to individuals participating “directly or indirectly in betting or similar activities relating to competition matches” or having “a direct or indirect financial interest in such activities.”

Bethard: ‘We’ll make sure it’s not a problem’

Ibrahimovic just returned to the Swedish national team at the end of March following a five-year break. He also played for AC Milan in Europe and Serie A. According to Aftonbladet, Ibrahimovic owns 10% of Bethard through his company, Unknown AB. The striker became Bethard’s ambassador three years ago and features in the majority of the promo materials posted by Bethard on their social accounts.

“I have obviously been intensively courted by betting companies throughout my career, but up until now, I have not been presented to anything that has triggered me,” Ibrahimovic told the firm’s website when their partnership was unveiled. “With Bethard, there was something different. It’s a company with Swedish roots, the founders are from my home town and they are true challengers who really want to do things differently.”

Weeks after formalizing his commitment to Bethard, Ibrahimovic courted a return to international football ahead of the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

In the end, it didn’t happen, but the betting company issued a statement saying:

“Zlatan has chosen to decline a role in the national team. Should he for any reason make a different choice regarding the matter, we will make sure that it’s not a problem. His possible participation in the World Cup will not in any regards affect his engagement with Bethard.”

Milan is desperate for Ibrahimovic’s return

After an explosive start to the season made fans dream of the title after years of suffering, AC Milan is currently in fifth place and on equal points with Napoli and Juventus, who are third and fourth, respectively. If the season would end today, Milan wouldn’t qualify for the Champions League, which is the minimum acceptable to avoid a disaster.

Coming after two defeats, Milan is playing Benevento at home on Saturday. Ibrahimovic last played for his team in the 3-1 away win over Parma, in which he was sent off for insulting the referee in the second half. He was suspended for the game against Genoa, which Milan won 2-1, then had a muscle problem and couldn’t feature against Sassuolo (1-2) and Lazio (0-3). Ibra is hoping to get fit in time for Benevento, which is Milan’s first of the five Champions League deciders left.

Despite missing 17 games this season (Italian League and the Europa League combined) because of injury or suspension, Ibrahimovic scored 15 goals and assisted another two in 17 Serie A encounters, adding one goal in the Italian Cup and a goal and an assist in the Europa League.

Ibrahimovic is +220 to score the first goal of the match against Benevento. He is at -200 for a goal anytime during the game. Benevento has won just one game of their last 17 in Serie A. There have been more than 2.5 goals in all of the four games Milan played recently, and a fifth consecutive over is at -200.