There is no player that provides as much entertainment both on and off the pitch as PSG and Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On the pitch he is a goalscoring machine and one of the most prolific strikers of his generation, combining grace, agility, power, guile and audacity to great effect. He has scored many stunning goals in his career so far, and you know you are in for an exciting game if Ibrahimovic is playing. Off the pitch, Zlatan is brimming with confidence and self belief, and so much so that he will often refer to himself in third person as “the Zlatan”, or even use his name as a verb where “to Zlatan” is to do something with extreme skill or talent or to dominate. His Twitter page and interviews are something to behold and attract as much attention as his on-field antics, as he almost comes across as a philosopher at times with some of his quotes.
He has a fantastic sense of humour to go along with the talent to back up his confidence, making him a star that is never far from the limelight and a fan favourite around the world, but also a player that polarises many. When the majority of athletes have as much self belief as Zlatan does, it will often see them lose more fans than gain any. This is not the case with Ibrahimovic, who has a personality that endears him to many. This makes Ibrahimovic one of the more intriguing athletes around the world, as few are as much of a showman as the Swede is. Despite his extraordinary footballing ability and entertaining nature, Ibrahimovic is often overlooked when talking about the world’s best despite winning numerous awards and individual accolades. Some would say this could be because of his, at times, rebellious persona and a few controversies over the years involving team-mates, managers and opponents. Nonetheless, the 33 year old has played and won at some of the biggest clubs in the world and continues to dazzle on the pitch and entertain off the pitch.
Here are 15 interesting facts about the charismatic PSG and Sweden forward.
15 He has a burger named after him in a French café
Ibrahimovic is adored in France following his move to PSG, and so much in fact that there is a burger named after him in a café called Doddy’s Café, located in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. “Le Zlatan” is a mammoth burger and described by the creator as one that “stands out from the crowd”, much like the man himself. The burger contains 600 grams of beef and is topped with bacon, cheddar, Emmental, Auvergne blue and onions, and it is so large that the bun has to be made specially in the café. The menu states that “even Chuck Norris couldn’t fit it in his mouth”; sounds like a challenge for “The Zlatan”.
14 At 10 years old he was used as a second half sub and scored 8 goals
Playing for his local team FBK Balkan when he was 10 years old, Zlatan was brought on as a second half sub as his team were trailing 5-0. A very young Ibrahimovic would turn the game on its head, scoring a remarkable eight, that's right, eight second half goals to win the game 8-5. “The Zlatan” was born and the world would soon take notice of this young Swedish footballer with sensational abilities at such a young age.
13 He has 2 sons with his long-term girlfriend
Ibrahimovic first met his partner, Helena Seger, when he was just 20 years old and playing for Ajax. They have been together ever since, and now have two sons together named Maximilian and Vincent. Seger is a former children’s television presenter and model/actress that is 11 years his senior. Ibrahimovic was famously once asked what he got his partner for her birthday, to which he nonchalantly replied “Nothing. She already has Zlatan.”
12 He gave all his PSG teammates personalized limited edition Xbox Ones
Shortly after failing to qualify for the World Cup, Zlatan surprised all of his PSG teammates with a unique gift. They each received a limited edition Xbox One, complete with their name and squad number (and Zlatan’s signature of course). Ibrahimovic is the only Xbox One ambassador for France, allowing him to give his teammates such a thoughtful gift. I’m sure that they could all afford their own console, but it’s the thought that counts.
11 He has won Swedish Footballer of the Year 9 times
A testament to how dominant Ibrahimovic has been, he has won the Guldbollen (Swedish Footballer of the Year) an incredible nine times. He picked up his 9th award in November of 2014, which was his 8th consecutive award with Freddie Ljunberg winning in 2006 after Zlatan’s first award in 2005. After picking up the latest award, Ibrahimovic stated that he was still “living my boyhood dream” and that he wants to win “a lot more”. He also paid tribute to Klas Ingesson and Pontus Segerstrom as well as his brother, all of who recently passed away.
10 The gravel pitch he learnt on has been remade in his honour
Although it may appear like he always has his heads in the clouds, Ibrahimovic never forgets his roots. When he was just a young boy he would practice and learn the game on an old gravel pitch, located just outside his mother’s house. After turning professional, Zlatan and Nike completely remade the pitch with rubber ground and hadthe goals painted in gold. The court in which it is contained is now called the “Zlatan Court”, and will enable a whole new generation to learn the game in better facilities than the Swedish striker did when he was young.
9 He is heavily tattooed
It is no surprise that Ibrahimovic has a number of tattoos, but he has a number of interesting ones with meanings that give us an insight into “The Zlatan”. He has a large red dragon on his side which is supposed to be a metaphor for his warrior like personality, and similarly he has a Koi fish on his left shoulder which is a fish that swims upstream and goes “against the grain”. He also has the Five Deva Faces Yantra, a Buddhist image representing the elements which is believed to fight off illness. The birthdates of his parents and siblings are tattooed on his wrists, and he also has his sons’ birthday and fathers name on his right arm with his mothers on his left. A few other tattoos are the words “only god can judge me” (a Tupac song) on his ribcage, and the ace of hearts and clubs on his right rib cage which are supposed to represent good luck.
8 He has a black-belt in Taekwondo
Being the sort of player and character he is, Ibrahimovic finds himself in quite a few arguments and fights both with the opposition and teammates. He is one player that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of however, as he became a black-belt in Taekwondo when he was 17 years old in his hometown of Malmo. He also received an honorary black-belt from the Italian Taekwondo team. His martial art abilities also help him on the pitch, as he has a phenomenal ability for acrobatic and overhead kicks despite his size, which has stunned the world with many times (with England being on the receiving end of one extraordinary goal).
7 He's made many enemies
Although an incredible talent, Zlatan has had clashes with those around him everywhere he has played. This could be as a result of his arrogance, but also goes back to his troubled childhood where he exhibited a fiery temper which he struggles to contain at times.
He has recalled hospitalizing a teammate when he was 13 years old, and he has also had high profile fights with former team-mate Rafael van der Vaart where he injured the Dutchman during an international game, Oguchi Onyewu which left Zlatan with a broken rib and numerous other players. He has also accused former manager Pep Guardiola as being a “coward” with “no balls”. This is one reason why he has played at numerous clubs, and also a reason why some players and fans are not the biggest fan of “The Zlatan”.
6 There is a wax statue of him in a Parisian Museum
Zlatan has been immortalized at the Musée Grévin in Paris with his own wax statue. The statue is of his trademark celebration, both arms raised and pointing to the sky. There is only one other non French player to have their own wax statue in the museum; Brazilian legend Pele, so he is in fine company indeed. This goes to show what an enormous impact he has had on Paris and the entire country of France since arriving at PSG in 2012, and you can be sure that it did wonders for Zlatan’s ego too.
5 He was eligible to play for Bosnia and Croatia but chose Sweden
Ibrahimovic was born in Sweden to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, with both parents immigrating to Sweden (where they would meet) when they were younger. This meant that he was eligible to play for Bosnia, Croatia and Sweden, but he would select Sweden as it was his birth country and where he grew up. He would make his international debut in a goalless draw in a friendly against the Faroe Islands in 2001, and would bag his first international goal in the same year in a World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan.
Ibrahimovic has been sensational for Sweden and is their all-time top scorer, but they have not enjoyed much success and missed out on the 2014 World Cup much to the disappointment of Sweden, Zlatan and his fans around the world.
4 He is a registered trademark and in the dictionary
After watching a few interviews with the Swedish striker you will quickly notice one thing; he likes the sound of his own name. So much so, in fact, that he had it trademarked in 2003. With both “Zlatan” and “Zlatan Ibrahimovic” trademarked, it means that he has exclusive rights to the name for products such as clothes, shoes and sporting goods. The term “To Zlatan” has also been added to the Swedish national dictionary and is widely used around the world, with the meaning to dominate or do something with extreme talent.
3 He is the only player to have scored in the Champions League with 6 different clubs
Zlatan has proven how deadly he is no matter what shirt he is wearing by scoring in Europe’s greatest club competition with six different clubs. Not only does this show that he is a ruthless goal scorer that can play under different managers, but it also demonstrates that all of the top teams in Europe want him in their squad. In the Champions League he has scored for Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and PSG. Many of these have been stunning goals, but he has never lifted the trophy. PSG will face Chelsea in the last 16, and they will need Ibrahimovic to be at his best if they are to advance.
2 He has the highest combined transfer fee total in football history at €171 million
Ibrahimovic has made a number of high profile switches during his career, and this has led him to top the list when it comes to combined transfer fee totals with a staggering €171 million. He has moved from Malmo FF to Ajax (€7.8m), Ajax to Juventus (€25m), Juventus to Inter Milan (€24.8m), Inter Milan to Barcelona (€69.5m), Barcelona to A.C Milan (€24m), A.C Milan to PSG (€20m). This goes to show what a valuable asset he has been throughout his career, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the fee is higher than what it now by the time he hangs up his boots.
1 He has won domestic league titles at every team since arriving at Ajax
Every club that Zlatan has played for since Malmo has lifted the league trophy at some point during his tenure; coincidence? Unlikely. Ibrahimovic has been lethal at every team he has played for, and although all good teams, he has played a huge role in helping them to succeed and top the table. Eleven league titles in 13 years, Zlatan has won two titles with Ajax, two with Juventus (although revoked due to the 2006 Italian Football Scandal), three with Inter Milan, one with Barcelona, one with A.C Milan and the last two with PSG. Few players in the history of the game can claim this much domestic dominance at multiple clubs. Perhaps a Premier League title will be next on his list?