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Zlatan Ibrahimovic biography

. May 14, 2008
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Zlatan Ibrahimović (born October 3, 1981 in Malmö) is a Swedish football striker. He is currently playing for Inter Milan, in Italy and the Sweden national football team.

Zlatan was born in Malmö, Skåne County (then Malmöhus County). The son of immigrants from Yugoslavia, his Bosnian father Šefik was born in Bijeljina and his Croat mother Jurka was born in Zadar, Croatia. Zlatan's parents met in Sweden, and he grew up in Rosengård, a Malmö neighbourhood known for its immigrant communities, where he also successfully completed junior high school (ninth grade). Although thereafter admitted to Borgarskolan in Malmö, he soon discontinued high school in order to focus on his football career.

Zlatan began playing football at the age of ten. His initial local club was called FBK Balkan, whose participants unsurprisingly reflected the demographics of the Rosengård neighbourhood. In 1995 he joined Malmö FF.


  • Zlatan's father (Bosnian) is Muslim, while his mother (Croatian) is Christian. However, he is not very strict about either religion.
  • Joga TV, a series of TV advertisement for Nike leading up to 2006 FIFA World Cup, frequently features Zlatan. One episode centered on Zlatan's (proven) ability to spit a piece of gum out of his mouth, juggle it between his feet, and then kick it back into his mouth.
  • Zlatan has two tattoos on each of his forearms, nicknamed the Ibrahimovic code. They are a series of numbers which are birth dates of his family:
  • Left arm: 18.07.1979 — Sister, Sanela; 16.04.1951 — Mother, Jurka
  • Right arm: 23.08.1951 — Father, Sefik; 30.04.1973 — Brother, Sapko; 10.07.1986 — Brother, Aleksander
  • During the World Cup in 2006, one of the most popular songs in Sweden was Who's Da Man - a song about Zlatan that was written and performed by a group from Ystad called Elias. It featured a seven-year-old boy on vocals, Frans, who considers Zlatan as his hero.
  • In a poll on during 2003, 61 per cent (4221 votes) voted for Zlatan to wear the name "Zlatan" on the back of his shirt. 29 per cent (2014 votes) voted for "Ibrahimovic", while 9 per cent (617 votes) had no opinion.
  • Zlatan shares a birthday (October 3, 1981) with fellow Swedish footballer Andreas Isaksson.
  • He is trained in taekwondo.
  • Zlatan was the fourth Swede to put on the Ajax shirt, joining Inge Danielsson, Peter Larsson, and Stefan Pettersson.
  • 84% of the population of Rosengård, the part of Malmö where Zlatan grew up, have a background from another country than Sweden.
  • Vägen tillbaka - Blådårar 2 is going to be a movie about Zlatan and the way back to Allsvenskan, the Swedish first division, for Malmö FF after they where degraded from Allsvenskan in 1999 for the first time in 64 years. It is also said to include a "Zlatan song".
  • In April 2002, a new book about training soccer skills was published in Sweden, where readers can learn some of Zlatan's special tricks.
  • Zlatan signed for Malmö FF at the age of 13.
  • He has a son, Maximilian, who was born on September 22, 2006.
  • Zlatan is a Bosnian name which means "gold".


  • "... Zlatan in this form is not an asset for the national team at all. I see no big difference in him being present or not." -- Thomas Ravelli, former Swedish goalkeeper, September 19, 2006
  • "He is possibly the most over-rated player in the world." -- Martin O'Neill on BBC, June 23, 2006
  • "If Zlatan Ibrahimovic goes on like he does at the moment, he will be the best in the world." -- Former England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson, about facing Sweden in the FIFA World Cup, December 11, 2005):
  • "Described as 'half ballerina, half gangster,' Sweden's Juventus striker could be England's undoing in Germany 2006." -- The Sunday Times (UK), December 11, 2005
  • "He is one of the best forwards I have met this year. In my opinion he can become one of the world's greatest players. He already has enormous qualities." -- Hernán Crespo, Inter Milan after UEFA Champions League game on (September 26, 2002)
  • "Zlatan is a ghost that is loose and might be a butcher that can settle the game against Inter. Materazzi has to be prepared to deal with the Swedish beast." -- Gazzetta dello Sport, before a UEFA Champions League game against Inter Milan, (September 25, 2002)
  • "He invents moves that don't exist in the material world and they are done like jazz improvisations on the pitch." -- Björn Ranelid, columnist for Swedish newspaper DN, May 31, 2002

Zlatan started professional football with the Swedish club Malmö FF in the 1999 season (Allsvenskan, the Swedish top division, begins in spring, not in autumn like in Central and Southern Europe). During his stay at the club, Arsène Wenger tried to persuade him to join Arsenal but Malmö did not allow the transfer.

Other than Wenger, Leo Beenhakker also showed interest in Zlatan after observing him practicing in La Manga, Spain. Watching Zlatan score an amazing goal in a training game against Norwegian side Moss, Beenhakker became convinced of Zlatan's talent. He went back to Amsterdam and on March 22, 2001, a deal between Ajax and Malmö regarding Zlatan's transfer to Amsterdam was announced and in July of the same year, he joined Ajax for record-breaking €7.8 million. The deal is by far the most lucrative any Swedish side has struck.

Under manager Co Adriaanse, Zlatan received little exposure. Adriaanse was sacked in November 29, however, and Zlatan's fortune started to change with the arrival of Ronald Koeman. Following Koeman's arrival, Zlatan was consistently chosen in Ajax's starting lineup. Ajax then went on to win the Eredivisie.

The next year Zlatan had a major breakthrough at the biggest stage of European football, UEFA Champions League. In his first game ever in the Champions League against French Champions Olympique Lyonnais, Zlatan scored two goals, including a true masterpiece when he dribbled past Brazilian Edmilson before shooting past the goalkeeper from a difficult angle. Zlatan helped Ajax make it all the way to the quarter-finals where they were narrowly beaten by eventual winners A.C. Milan.

The Champions League success however took its toll in the domestic league and Ajax finished second behind PSV. In the 2002-2003 season, Ajax was back at the top of Eredivisie, though. Zlatan continued to do well both in the league and, in particular, in the Champions League, scoring a new spectacular goal against Celta Vigo. In a Group H match against Milan on September 16, 2003, Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso was sent off late in second-half injury time after backhanding Zlatan in the face. Unfortunately, Ajax did not advance past the group stage.

After a fine season Zlatan was well prepeared for Euro 2004 in Portugal, and joined a fine Swedish team featuring Celtic star Henrik Larsson and Arsenal winger Fredrik Ljungberg. Zlatan did well, scoring a penalty goal against Bulgaria and rounding off a fine performance against the solid defence of Italy by scoring an amazing overtime equaliser. He jumped up in the air and kicked the ball one-and-a-half meter above the ground with his backheel into Buffon's top corner. Zlatan is well known for his agility and his ability to score goals with his feet high up in the air, and perhaps this stems from the fact that he practised taekwondo as a youth.

The tournament ended, though, with Sweden losing to Holland on penalties in the quarterfinals. Zlatan was one of the Swedes who missed a penalty.

The next season started brightly for Zlatan, though. On August 22, he scored an incredible goal against NAC Breda which was eventually voted the best goal of the year by Eurosport's viewers. Maradona-like, he dribbled past more or less the entire defence before beating the goalkeeper and calmly putting the ball in the back of the net. On August 31, 2004, the final day of the summer transfer window, Zlatan moved from Ajax to Juventus for a €19 million transfer fee. Surprisingly, he made it rather quickly in to the starting eleven. This was due in part to the fact that the team's top scorer,David Trézéguet was injured, in part to Zlatan being one of coach Fabio Capello's favourite players (Capello had tried to get him already at Roma), but mostly thanks to Zlatan's fine performances. He scored 16 goals, and this in a league that is considered to be very hard for strikers, especially foreign striker. Juventus eventually won a second consecutive Scudetto, but were later stripped of both as part of the verdicts of the summer 2006 match-fixing scandal.

Near the end of the Serie A season Juve reportedly rejected a €70 million bid for him from Spanish power Real Madrid. This later proved to be nothing more than a PR stunt initiated by Zlatan's agent in order to raise his market value. Nonetheless, he was voted the player of the season in 2004-05 by the fans of Juventus. Zlatan was nominated to the 2005 FIFA world player of the year along with thirty other top players and finished as number eight. On November 14, 2005, he was awarded Guldbollen, a prize given to the best Swedish footballer of the year.

The following season was a more turbulent one for Zlatan. He had always had problems with Swedish journalists and these problems mounted as Zlatan's success (and, wicked tongues say, his ego) grew. During autumn, Zlatan's role in Juventus attack changed, and he became less of a goalscorer. He moved more and more to the sidelines, taking much part in the build-up play, especially as a target player, where he could use his exceptional physical strength. He thus started to make more assists than goals.

Even though he played well, arguably the best football of his career, criticism against the lack of goals started to increase. And in spring, when Zlatan lost most of his fine form in the game outside the penalty area as well, criticism rose to a thunderstorm, both in Italy, were fans and journalists preferred Juve icon Alessandro del Piero, often sidelined for Zlatan's benefit, and in Sweden. Even so, Zlatan retained his place in the starting eleven and Juve eventually won Serie A again. Zlatan was also considered arrogant and troublesome, especially in Sweden where these feelings were strengthened due to several incidents between Zlatan and Swedish media.

Zlatan's performances had been a major reason why Sweden qualified to the 2006 World Cup. Both Sweden and Zlatan was though to under-achieve in the tournament, though. Zlatan was substituted at half time in one game, against Paraguay, and did in another, against England, due to a groin injury. How much his performances in the other games was affected by this is hard to know. Sweden was knocked out in the 2nd round by Germany.

In the summer of 2006, Juve and Zlatan lost the league titles of the two previous seasons, due to the excessive cheating initiated by General Manager Luciano Moggi. Juve was also relegated to Serie B. The new staff tried to persuade Zlatan, and other top players, to stay in Juventus, but Zlatan and his agent was adamant to move. Mino Raiola even threatened legal action in order to extricate Zlatan from his contract. He signed a four-year contract to Inter Milan for € 24.8 milion on August 10, 2006.

Not long after his awaited transfer to Seria A giants Inter, Zlatan was called up to the Sweden squad to face Liechtenstein in the European Championship Qualifiers. While the squad was gathered at the players hotel, Zlatan and his teammates Christian Wilhelmsson and Olof Mellberg decided to break the squad curfew by going out to a nearby nightclub. Notable is that none of the players stated above had anything to drink. The Swedish Football Association was quick to ban the three players for their unprofessional behavior and when both Mellberg and Wilhelmsson instantly apologized for their misconduct, Zlatan demanded an apology from the Association, stating that the punishment had been too harsh. When not given the requested apology, Zlatan declared that he wouldn't be playing for the Swedish national team and therefor was withdrawn from the squads upcoming games against both competent Iceland and group giants Spain. Sweden went on to win both matches without Ibrahimovic.

Playing style

Zlatan is 192 cm tall and powerfully built, and thus physical strength is one of his greatest assets. Since Zlatan arrived in Italy, he has become even stronger, since coach Fabio Capello, who is known to prefer physically strong players, ordered him to undergo a gym training program. It has been suggested by Zlatan himself that he might have added a couple of kilos too much, and that this contributed to the poor form in the spring of 2006.

Zlatan is, though, also known for his techical ability, and this unusual combination of technique and strength is what has taken him to the top clubs in Italy. None of the wondergoals described above could have been made by a less technically gifted player. He is also well known to be a good provider of spectacular assists.

His technique consists mainly in his great dribbling skills, but he can also shoot very hard, though not always accurate, and has taken free-kicks in both Inter and Juventus. He is also a good passer of the ball, though he sometimes seem to have concentration lapses and thus make simple mistakes. Zlatan is also quite fast, though this is rarely seen, as he prefers to meet the ball rather than try to beat the offside trap and run towards the opponents goal.

Zlatan is also thought to have a bad temper, resulting in a red card in the important game against Bayern Munich in November 2, 2005, and a two match suspension after head-butting present assistant coach Sinisa Mihajlovic in the match between Inter and Juve in April 17, 2005. He is also known to be quite a bad loser, never giving interviews after defeats. The flip side of this may be that he is a winning type, according to some.

He has during the past year been heavily cricitized for the low numbers of goals he has scored. Zlatan has clearly a tendency rather to go for quality than for quantity when it comes to goals, which is not uncommon for technically gifted strikers. He rarely scores from inside the six-yard box, for example.

With his strength and height, he wins most aerial duels with defenders. He is not very good at scoring with his head, though, often mis-timing the ball.

In Sweden, Zlatan is often accused of laziness: that he does not work enough defensively. In Italy, where people never expected strikers to do much defensive work, this is less often heard. Another drawback he has is that concedes quite a few free-kicks, especially in Serie A where the referees whistle a lot. Sometimes, he runs offside quite a lot as well.

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