A Profile Of Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born in Malmo on 3rd October 1981, to a Muslim father from Bosnia and a Catholic mother from Croatia, and grew up to be one of the most entertaining football players of all-time.
Off the field he is often arrogant and outspoken, as well as referring to himself in the third-person, but on the field he is one of the most complete strikers to have ever played the game. He has brilliant vision, exceptional ball control, strength, agility and is a great finisher.
It all started for Zlatan at the age of six, when he was given his first pair of football boots, and he spent his childhood playing for local junior teams before joining the youth set-up at Malmo FF. It was at Malmo he signed his first contract in 1996 and he moved up to their senior side in 1999.
In 2000, Ibrahimovic was on the verge of an incredible move to England to play for Arsenal. The offer fell through when manager Arsene Wenger insisted on a trial period for the teenage striker. The brash youngster said “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions” and he went back to Sweden.
After choosing to represent the country of his birth, Sweden, instead of Bosnia & Herzegovina or Croatia, he made his international debut in a 0-0 draw against the Faroe Islands in January 2001. His first international goal came later in the year against Azerbaijan.
Ibrahimovic scored 18 goals from 47 appearances for his hometown club before moving to Ajax in July 2001. He struggled for playing time initially but was thrust into the first team when former Dutch international Ronald Koeman took over as head coach from Co Adriaanse.
He scored six goals as Ajax won the league title and then helped them reach the Quarter Final of the Champions League, scoring five goals in the competition, the following season. Winning a Goal of the Year award for the 2003/04 season helped raise his reputation in the game but his time in Amsterdam was over in August 2004.
The striker was sold suddenly to Italian side Juventus, with a lot of people believing it was down to an incident where Ibrahimovic injured club teammate Rafael van der Vaart in an international match a couple of weeks before his departure.
He went straight into the Juventus starting XI and finished the season with 16 league goals as he helped them win the Serie A title. At the end of the season it was reported Real Madrid had put in a bid of 70m Euros for the striker but it turned out to be an elaborate publicity stunt orchestrated by his agent in order to raise his valuation.
In November 2005, Ibrahimovic was named Swedish footballer of the year but had a relatively poor season by his standards. His role in the Juventus attack had changed and he became more of a goal provider instead of goal scorer as they won another league title.
Due to being involved in a big match fixing scandal which was uncovered in 2006, Juventus were relegated to Serie B and stripped of their last two league titles. Many star players left the sinking ship and moved to other clubs.
This included Ibrahimovic, who joined Inter Milan in August 2006. A goal on his league debut was the first of 15 as he finished the season as top scorer for his new club, leading them to the Serie A title with a record number of points.
After violating a team curfew before a Euro 2008 qualifier against Liechtenstein, Ibrahimovic was dropped from the Sweden squad. This led to him refusing to play for them again for the next three games. He returned for a match against Northern Ireland and went on to be named the country’s top player for 2007.
He also became the world’s highest paid footballer in 2007, when he penned a new contract at Inter. The 2007/08 season saw a second league title in a row for the club whilst Ibrahimovic was named Serie A Footballer of the Year and Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year.
The following season, he finished as the top scorer in the league with 25 goals and won the top two individual awards again as he guided Inter to a third consecutive title. A sublime back-heeled goal against Bologna was also voted Goal of the Year.
Barcelona paid a record £59m and exchanged Samuel Eto’o to bring Ibrahimovic to Spain and he was presented to 60,000 fans at the Nou Camp after passing his medical in July 2009. He scored 16 league goals in his first season, helping Barcelona win the league title, but his time in Spain ended before the start of the 2010/11 season.
A violent changing room altercation between him and manager Pep Guardiola brought an end to the Swede’s Barcelona career, with him reportedly threatening to beat up his boss unless he was allowed to leave. The move was forced through and Zlatan became an AC Milan player soon afterwards.
Winning the league title in his first season with Milan was somewhat overshadowed by an ugly incident where Ibrahimovic punched a Bari defender in the stomach. He was shown a red card and had his suspension increased when he was found to have used indecent language towards an official in a previous match.
His violent side was on show again the following season, when he was sent off for slapping Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica in an off-the-ball incident. Despite the controversy, Ibrahimovic continued his goal-scoring exploits with 28 goals for the 2011/12 season.
He then became the most expensive footballer in the world in combined transfer fees when he left AC Milan to join Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2012.
In four seasons with PSG, he scored 156 goals in just 180 appearances. This included 50 goals from 51 games in the 2015/16 season, his final campaign with the French side. During his time in France, he won four Ligue 1 titles, was top scorer in the league three times and was also named Player of the Year three times.
After playing 116 times for Sweden and becoming their all-time top scorer with 62 goals, Ibrahimovic called time on his international career at the end of Euro 2016. He had represented his country at two World Cups and four European Championships during his 15-year international career, as well as wearing the captain’s armband for the past few years.
Ibrahimovic will grace the English Premier League with his personality and talent in the upcoming season, after agreeing a deal with Manchester United. He was a free agent after his contract with PSG expired and will reportedly earn £200,000 a week in wages.
Off the field he has had a song released in tribute to him, had stamps issued featuring him in Sweden and even trademarked the name “Zlatan”. But, he has also remembered his roots and given back to his nation.
In 2007 he funded a new fenced in football field in the district of Rosengard in Malmo, where he used to play as a child and the following year donated new kits to his former youth club. He then paid more than $51,000 to send the Swedish national football team for the intellectually disabled to the World Championship. In February this year, a sports documentary film by a group of Swedish filmmakers was released with followed ‘Ibra’ from the start of his career up to when he signed for Juventus.
He may not be to everybody’s liking but he is undoubtedly one of the best footballers of his generation, if not of all-time, and always provides entertainment wherever he goes.