Exclusive: Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play on for ‘many years’ says Hong Kong surgeon who saved Manchester United star’s knee
Dr Freddie Fu says the Swedish striker is one of the top athletes he’s ever laid hands on – and confirms the player is in such good shape he wants to do research on him
The Hong Kong surgeon who saved Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s knee says the Manchester United star is “one of the top athletes I’ve ever touched” and has “many years” left at the top, as he confirmed he’d like to do research on the Swedish star.
In his first interview since he and colleague Volker Musahl successfully performed surgery to repair the striker’s anterior cruciate ligament, Dr Freddie Fu Ho-keung said the 35-year-old was in magnificent physical condition and would make a full recovery.
“I can’t discuss too many details, I don’t want to get in trouble with Manchester United,” said Fu, chairman of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.
“But I can tell you he’s in superb shape in all things. Healthy morphology, the quality of the bone and muscle, everything is as good as you can possibly see.
“He’s one of the top athletes I’ve ever touched, he is in superb shape.”
Fu has lived in the States since his university days, but insists: “I love Hong Kong and I’ll always belong to Hong Kong, I’m very proud to be called a Hongkonger and I come back every year.”
He provided the Post with pictures of himself with a Manchester United shirt signed by Ibrahimovic, reading “To Freddie Fu! Keep doing your great work and magic! With love and success! Thank you for everything!”.
Ibrahimovic tore his knee ligaments in a Europa League match against Anderlecht on March 20. At 35, many thought the striker’s career might have been over.
He had scored 28 goals in 46 games for United since joining last summer – earning himself £2.8 million (HK$28 million) in goal bonuses on top of his £367,640-a-week salary, according to Der Spiegel magazine, which claims to have a copy of his contract.
According to the contract, he would automatically have received a one-year extension to his United deal had he played just four more Premier League games, but the club now seem unlikely to take up their 12-month option on his deal given his injury.
Nevertheless, Fu is confident Ibrahimovic will play at a high level for a long time yet – and confirmed a seemingly hyperbolic claim from agent Mino Raiola that “Zlatan is so strong that the doctor wants him back after his career to research on him ... So after Zlatan’s career, we will go back and open him up again to do research on his ligaments.”
“Sure, in the future absolutely, when he’s retired,” said Fu. “But he can still play for many years, he’s so healthy, so strong, biologically, bone morphology, everything, is absolutely very healthy.”
Fu has done some 20,000 knee operations, including on many of the NFL and NHL’s top players, but admitted he was taken aback by the worldwide media attention surrounding the surgery. He even heard that Ibrahimovic’s team would be coming to Pittsburgh to see him before they made official contact.
“I love soccer, I grew up in Hong Kong and when I was young we played soccer and I remember going to watch Pele play when he came. [So] I knew who [Ibrahimovic] was, I’ve seen him on advertisements and on the Premier League in America, and I remember that stunning goal against England that everybody saw in the highlights. I didn’t know him as much as I do now of course.
“I think it’s a bit different because he’s global. I’ve taken care of many American players in my lifetime but they’re more like American. He’s global.
“In fact, I heard about him coming to meet me before I even knew he was coming. I’ve trained about 800 people worldwide, doctors, and they had already heard about him coming on the Friday. Somehow things leak out to the press and then I was officially contacted about it later.”
And despite nearly four decades of years of fixing knees, Fu said Ibrahimovic was surely the biggest name he’d ever worked on.
“I’ve probably operated at least 20,000 surgeries on knees, 6,000 just on the ACL. I’ve been operating since 1981 so it’s a long, long time, the whole nine yards from open surgery to arthroscopic.
“But he’s definitely a superstar.”