Not many Malaysians can claim to have met Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Earlier this year, Astro SuperSports was invited to Paris to interview some of the PSG players – a chance of a lifetime. The first question I asked was, “can we get Zlatan?”. The answer was a reluctant yes, but it was good enough for me. We sent 2 hosts – Reem Shahwa and Reuben Kang from our variety show Football Overload, and they managed to get some quality time not only with the Swedish striker but also with Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva and Lucas Moura. When I asked them what was the experience like, clearly the highlight was meeting and interviewing Ibrahimovic. He was “larger than life”, physically and mentally. You begin to understand that most of the best footballers in the history of the game were known to be alpha characters – strong, bold, confident.
Millions of footballs fans who might have followed his career probably know the clubs he’s played for, the memorable goals he’s scored and his infamous quotes. For those who’ve read his autobiography, perhaps more.
So here are 10 things you might not know about Zlatan Ibrahimovic:
1. JERSEY NUMBER
Before winning the number 8 jersey at Inter Milan, or the number 10 at PSG, or the number 9 at Ajax – Zlatan was wearing a modest number 27 at Malmo when they were relegated from the top division. Can’t imagine how expensive that jersey would cost now for vintage collectors.
2. HAS 5 SIBLINGS
As you probably might’ve heard or read somewhere, Zlatan’s father was Bosnian – his mother, Croatian. He had 5 siblings, Violeta, Sapko, Aleksandr, Monika and Selma. His brother Sapko passed away to a long-standing illness in April of 2014. His parents were divorced when he was only 2 years old.
3. USED TO STEAL BICYCLES
Growing up in a ‘tough’ suburb called Rosengard in Malmo, Zlatan was known as a thief – stealing bicycles, shoplifted in supermarkets, threw bricks at car windows and even robbed a postman once. He was illusive though to the authorities, never getting caught in the process.
4. PURPLE DIABLO
When Zlatan was still 17 and playing for Malmo, he vowed to own a Purple Lamborghini Diablo. It was to be shiny metallic, sporting the number plate TOYS. At the age of 18, he was already driving a Mercedes, after guiding Malmo to promotion.
5. ZLATAN COURT
In 2007, the football court in which he grew up playing at in Malmo was named Zlatan Court in tribute of the striker. At the entrance of the court is an inscription that reads “Here is my heart. Here is my history. Here is my play.Take it further – Zlatan. In almost like a Hollywood style fashion, his footprint and autograph is marked with an impression on the court. Together with his sponsors Nike, the court was given a face light recently, with proper lights, surface and goalposts.
When we asked Zlatan who was his best friend in the game, it took him less than a second to answer Maxwell. For obvious reasons. The left back has been a team-mate of Zlatan in 4 different clubs, so it’s not coincidence – Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona and PSG. They met on Zlatan’s first day in Amsterdam and have been best friends since.
When PSG signed Zlatan in 2012 for an annual salary of 11.3 million euros AFTER TAX, the French Finance Minister called it an ‘indecent’ amount of money. Zlatan’s salary bracket meant that he would receive a 75% tax deduction, so BEFORE TAX, Zlatan was signed for salary of 412,000 euros per week! Falcao who?
Zlatan’s wife Helena, is 11 years older than him. The pair met at a currency exchange counter at Malmo Central Station back in 2002. They have 2 kids Maximillian and Vincent. It wasn’t love at first sight, Helena recalls that Zlatan was snobbish and flashy when they first met. Helena was a model, actress and TV host.
9. RONALDO & MUHAMMAD ALI
His idols growing up was Brazilian legend Ronaldo and boxing hero Muhammad Ali. Despite playing with and against some of the biggest names in the history of the sport, Zlatan was once quoted as saying that there will never be a greater footballer than Ronaldo. As for the boxing world champion, Zlatan was apparently hooked to his matches and interview as a child – and we all know what kind of personality Muhammad Ali had on and off the ring. Coincidence?
We’ve all heard about the whole episode with Arsenal where Arsene Wenger offered Zlatan a trial, and how the striker rejected that idea. But did you know that after his first season at Ajax, Zlatan was very nearly loaned him out to Southampton. The Swede only managed 6 goals in first year at Amsterdam and then coach Co Adriaanse was offered the option of sending him to England to gain more first team football. Zlatan refused and stayed on for 2 succesful season before Juventus came knocking.