Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not a star. He is a meteor of undoubted appeal. On the field, he displays his footballing genius on a very consistent basis. Off it, he possesses a razor-sharp tongue that he is not hesitant to use.
Some love him, some hate him. But all agree that he will go down in history as one of the best finishers the game has ever seen.
Zlatan, a name he has trademarked as “most likely being perceived as Zlatan
Ibrahimovic”, has once identified another sports legend as his inspiration.
“[Muhammad Ali] is one of my role models, one of my idols in sport and outside the sport also (sic)…he believed in his [principles] and he never gave [them] up.”
Little wonder his unquenchable desire to become one of the greatest the world has ever seen. On that count, though, opinion is divided because this is a phenomenal footballer who has never won the greatest prize in Europe, despite having plied his trade in some of the top clubs in Europe all his career.
It is not too common to find footballers with clubs such Ajax, Juventus, AC Milan, Internazionale, Barcelona and Paris St. Germain on their CV, but cannot point at a UEFA Champions League medal in their cabinet.
Two Eredivisie titles, four Serie A titles (not counting the two titles won with Juventus revoked during Calciopoli) one La Liga and two Ligue 1 medals, soon to become three, plus several cup wins go some way in papering over the lack of the Champions League winners medal.
On the international scene, Ibrahimovic has done all he can to push Sweden to the heights possible. His latest efforts to qualify his country for the 2014 World Cup ended when a more determined Cristiano Ronaldo ensured Ibra would not feature in the Brazil showdown.
That has not deterred his countrymen from immortalizing their talisman. Zlaaatan.com is a new Google-like search engine “that allows internet users to search the web only for things that matter: Zlatan-related content”, as described by Sports Illustrated.
The page is the invention of Swedish ad agency, Sweet Pop – evidence of how adored Ibrahimovic is in his home country, Champions League winner or not.
What Ibrahimovic lacks in football-related achievement, he makes up for with an extraordinary, sharp tongue uncommon for a footballer. His ego is evident in nearly every soundbite he gives in interviews.
“First I went left, he did too. Then
I went right, and he did too. Then
I went left again, and he went to
buy a hot dog,” was how he described his ‘snake’ trick on Liverpool’s Stephane Henchoz.
In his autobiography, he says “An injured Zlatan is a pretty serious thing for any team.” Although, when injured and suspended for parts of this season, his PSG teammates fared pretty well.
Whichever way it goes for Zlatan, whatever happens between now and the end of his career, the man Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be remembered in football. How he will be remembered is another thing altogether. As a legend? Maybe. But as he says, “Swedish style? No. Yugoslavian style? Of course not. It has to be Zlatan-style.”