Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the best strikers in modern football history – and one of the greatest of all time. just asking you; He’ll tell you himself. However, as the old saying goes, “it’s not bragging if you can back it”. It is a line that is extremely relevant for the Swedish striker. Yes, he may seem unmanageable when singing his praises, but he backs them up with plenty of performances. For the best of 20 years now, he has been the dominant figure for Swedish football – a celebrity who commands public attention in many ways.
The man continues to defy age and is still playing for top side AC Milan. But, as he turns 40 and his career seems likely to end, it’s worth taking a look back at the man’s career — and some of his best soundbites.
So, on Zlatan’s birthday, we look at the football player, the person and the personality.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – an extraordinary talent
Younger fans might not be familiar with it, but the man who prefers to refer to himself as the third man is much more than just a goalscorer. Age and loss of mobility have seen him fine-tune his game and become a hunter of sorts.
However, the boy from Malmö was more than just someone who could find the back of the net. Ibrahimovic was, in many ways, ahead of his time when he first appeared on the stage.
At Ajax, the first major club he joined, he was known as much for his moves and flicks as for his finishing. Ibrahimovic was not afraid to dribble around players, whether with nimble footwork or quick pace.
And he could play in many formations as well. At Juventus, he formed an effective partnership with David Trezeguet. In later years, when two-striker formations were phased out, he proved an effective focal point as a lone striker.
His ability in the air is also commendable. His height and build mean he can go for headers when possible and will make him useful at both ends of the pitch.
What separates Ibrahimovic from the rest is his mindset. The Swedish player is said to have a winning mindset and has constantly worked hard to improve his game.
At the start of his career, he was not as ruthless a finisher as he is now and preferred more of a playmaker. Over time, he worked on becoming more selfish in front of goal and became more prolific.
He is also a natural leader, inspiring teammates to do better both on the field and at the training ground. It is a role he continues to play as an elder statesman at AC Milan.
An easy mark of greatness for any player is the number of trophies he wins in his career. While this may not be an accurate metric – even an average player on a great team will win a lot of silverware – it has some merit.
In that sense, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s legacy is well and truly secured. He won 31 trophies during his career – a number that could have been higher if not for the Calciopoli scandal.
There is also the fact that he has won trophies in many countries. He won leagues and cups in the Netherlands with Ajax, and several trophies in Italy.
He also won trophies in Spain during his one-year spell at Barcelona. In addition, he won trophies in England with Manchester United and in France with Paris Saint-Germain. He also took MLS by storm, winning trophies with the LA Galaxy before returning to AC Milan.
He has also won several individual awards. Notably, the only trophy missing from his collection is the Champions League title.
Incredibly, he never went on to win club football’s biggest trophy. But this is a short take away from his illustrious career.
Brash and distort public persona
Yet one of the reasons why she is always in news is her outspoken nature. Zlatan Ibrahimovic constantly refers to himself as the third man, and possesses confidence and arrogance in equal measure.
His ruthless nature has seen him clash with several teammates over the years. Hell, one could fill a lengthy article on his many feuds with teammates, past or present.
As such, he has given many memorable quotes to the media over the years. His response to being offered a trail at Arsenal was simple: “Zlatan doesn’t audition.”
He once remarked to himself, “I can’t help but laugh at myself for how perfect I am.” Tell us how you really feel. This is followed by his description of dribbling a cross past Liverpool defender Stéphane Henchoz. “First I went left; He did too. Then I went right and so did he. Then I went left again and he went to buy a hot dog.” Yes.
Yet perhaps his best barbs were reserved for Pep Guardiola. The two had an infamous relationship during Ibrahimovic’s one-year spell at Barcelona. And the Swede didn’t miss the opportunity to tell others about his hatred for Guardiola.
“When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. If you drive a Ferrari you put premium petrol in the tank, you hit the motorway and you step on the gas. [Pep] Guardiola filled up with diesel and set off for a ride through the countryside. He should have bought a Fiat,” was his reaction to how he was used at Barcelona.
This gem is also: “[Jose] Mourinho is the opposite of Guardiola. If Mourinho lights up the room, Guardiola pulls down the curtains and I guess Guardiola is now trying to measure himself with him.
Never change, Zlatan. and happy Birthday.