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Defining Football Star Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Arrogant Trickster or Charmingly Brave?

September 23, 2010 By Isaac Asante
Just as Cristiano Ronaldo, AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic faces massive criticism from the public because of his “brash” attitude. But really, why do people believe he is so arrogant?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a one-time Inter Milan and Barcelona player. Now an AC Milan star...On several occasions, Ibra has been reproached by football personalities and followers for his indomitable spirit. The Swedish forward is said to have a uniquely divisive attitude in the dressing rooms, which explains why he has been going through hectic transfers in the past few years.

Despite his negative outlook, he is still a big target for Europe’s top clubs; and behind this fact lies a mysterious question. Why would such a “cocky” player be wanted by top sides if his moral fiber was as disapproving as many believe it to be? Perhaps this is simply because the world has unduly translated into arrogance the typical combination of high confidence and mental power, which has made Ibrahimovic an incomprehensible player.


Overrated Ibrahimovic disappoints Barcelona

Zlatan left Inter Milan in 2009 to join FC Barcelona, but this was not an easy move. It was reported that the Catalans, who were treble winners at the time, gave away €46 million in cash, in addition to legendary striker Samuel Eto’o.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the Juan Gamper Trophy with BarcelonaIbrahimovic was given the permission to quit by the managing board of Inter following his appalling attitude and his complaints against the Italian club’s supporters. The striker apparently accused fans of being too demanding for no reason; yet, his stand was somewhat understandable seeing that fans had refused to acknowledge his great efforts which saw him net 29 goals in 46 appearances within his last season for the eventual Serie A champions.

It was this attainment -- along with the determination he showed in all competitions -- which pressed Barcelona’s followers to believe that another great fence had been added to their kingdom, after his purchase was finalized. Indeed, with Ibrahimovic promptly expressing great happiness over his 5-year deal with the Spanish giants, things were seemingly flowing in the right direction.

But just after he impressed his owners in his first encounters at Barcelona, fate turned against him. His goal tally then increased slowly, and his performance got below par -- especially in comparison with the loads of expectation he was carrying throughout the 2009/10 season.

Ibrahimovic disappointed the Blaugrana by scoring 21 goals in 41 appearances; and in his case, it was not about having to be content we what he achieved, but rather about reproaching him for squandering his great chances at the club. Zlatan however benefited from a high salary at Barcelona, which made him one of the most lucrative sport stars on the planet.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Truly Smug or Not?

After a single season at the club where he somehow managed to hold La Liga title, Ibrahimovic was shown the door. But it was revealed that the club’s decision to temporarily release their striker was taken based on many issues which had taken place off the pitch; and reportedly, most of the story regarded the “broken” relationship between Coach Pep Guardiola and the Swedish player. According to many sources, both members of Barcelona had not exchanged words between each other in months, and in an interview with ESPN Soccernet, Ibrahimovic -- now an AC Milan player -- even declared that Guardiola was avoiding him as much as he could.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pep Guardiola, at Barcelona“At first we were on the same wavelength and the same philosophy, that of free-flowing attacking football,” said Ibra.

“I felt we had a healthy boss-player relationship and then he just froze me out last spring. There was no more dialogue, no explanations. All of a sudden I didn't exist anymore.

“He (Guardiola) went down as a person in my estimation. He avoided me and wouldn't even look me in the eye. If he had a problem with me, he should have told me to my face as I would have respected that sort of honesty. Instead, I got nothing and it was a mystery to me. You have to ask him why he brought down the shutters.”

Already, after a few weeks with Barcelona last season, gossips began to spread over the player’s behavior off-field. But through his statement, Zlatan certainly made it clear that he was conveying his innocence in the whole matter; hence placing himself in the right, while putting his former manager in the wrong. This might nevertheless be a disliked attitude among many fans, who would not hesitate to portray the Swedish man as a disrespectful and unprofessional player.

Although there would not be any surprise if the accusing rumors on Ibrahimovic’s approach in the dressing rooms were true, it is obvious that seeing or hearing directly from the accused is always more rightful. When asked about the claims, the former Inter Milan talisman categorically disagreed.

“I totally reject it,” he asserted. “Ask some of my former managers such as Ronald Koeman, Fabio Capello, Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho.”

“Even though I have a strong personality and I like to speak my mind, they handled me well. I wasn’t a negative influence to them.”

So then… why should the public cover Ibrahimovic with a personality which is not his, and thus believe in stories which possess no fundamental evidences? Undoubtedly, it is very much likely that public has no difficulty in making the connection between Ibra’s “off-field rumors” and his “on-field negative behavior”.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic gesturing during a game at Inter MilanZlatan Ibrahimovic’s insolence

Yes, we have probably all seen it in the past. Daring and anger are two emotions which have made the player act fearlessly in his career; even if unfortunately, on several occasions, he has appeared to overact unnecessarily.

In 2009, during a goal celebration, Zlatan ordered Inter Milan fans to keep quiet through a hand gesture, after they criticized his state of mind. Ibrahimovic is also known for surreptitiously fouling his opponents after failing to correctly make a strike, or deliver a pass.

Sadly, there has been no sign of positive development in his actions lately, as it was said that he kicked AC Milan’s youngster Rodney Strasser from behind during training. So far, the confirmed reason behind this remains unknown, but what sealed Ibrahimovic’s insolence is the “verbal war” he recently had with former Milan coach Ariggo Sacchi.

It was publicized that both personalities were present as visitors on a TV show, when at a point, the player’s first goal against Auxerre in the Champions League became a subject of conversation. According to, Sacchi made a joke by saying: “You scored the first goal because you have big feet.”

But ostensibly, that joke was utterly disapproved by Zlatan, who responded harshly: “That's nice, you talk too much and you write too much… even when I was at Barcelona. It you don't like me, (then) don't watch me.”

This was definitely a stunning reply from the former Barca star. It was an unsympathetic response to which Sacchi could only retort: “You should learn some manners.” went further into details to reveal that Sacchi also slammed Ibra’s selfishness on-field; and expectedly, the AC Milan key player answered back: “Sacchi talks a lot about me on television. If you (Sacchi) have something to say, you should come and tell me to my face.”



There is surely much more to tell on the forward, but such news is enough to perceive Ibrahimovic’s negative body language. Regrettably, it does not seem like the superstar is willing to show humbleness anytime soon in order to develop a sweet side and gain some respect back from the public.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: A controversial traitor?

Ibrahimovic’s exit from FC Barcelona helped the Catalan club to get hold of a brighter vision of their future in terms of finances; but next to his temporary departure as a player on loan, came his landing back in Italy. Nonetheless, despite the fact that the player returned to the city of Milan, the professional club honored with his fresh presence was none other than the Rossoneri.

Now, this can emerge as an exciting move for many neutral football followers, but on the side of fervent Inter Milan fans, Ibra’s approval toward the Barcelona-AC Milan deal can easily bring up ideas of betrayal. Beforehand, seasons ago, it seemed Zlatan was never to going to make tracks with Inter; and especially not to join their city rivals.

Regardless, it did not take too much from the striker to make the most daring thing that he could have ever done in his career. No matter what, Ibrahimovic has openly uttered his joy over his new contract with a club that “is better than Barcelona”, according to him. As stated by, this is what the former Juventus striker told reporters while speaking about his arrival and intentions at AC Milan.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, AC Milan forward...“I could tell this is a great thing, and the fans have all been excellent… Everything has been fantastic. Finally I’m here now, and I think this is the most beautiful shirt I have played in.”

"[…] When you have a great team like Milan, then you are favorites to win the Champions League and Scudetto. Now that I am back in Italy, I am hungrier than I was last time I was here (at my time with Inter). I always enter things to win, and if I don't, then I have made a mistake.

“[…] We have the best defense and attack. If we do our job, then we can just attack, but it's all down to the coach. We have five of the strongest forwards in the world. Pippo Inzaghi is a phenomenon as well.

"No player can say no to Milan. There's nothing much to think about, you just say yes and thank the club. When I sign for a club then it's always my last club, but you never know what happens.

"Barcelona was meant to be my club for life, but then small things make a difference. I hope to stay here long, but it all depends on the club and coach.

"I think Milan are greater than Barcelona if you look at the history. I don't know what the problem was at Barcelona, but Berlusconi convinced me to come here. I have never been this motivated in my whole career.”

In some ways, such a controversial statement from Ibrahimovic obscurely blaming his “former pals” can appear to be insulting to both Inter and Barcelona. Despite the consequences, there are no reasons for which they could confront him, since -- other than wishing him bad luck in AC Milan -- there is nothing else anyone could do against him.



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