There are a myriad of ways you could describe AC Milan’s much-travelled show-pony Zlatan Ibrahimovic (lolloping gobshite, work-shy flake, disruptive semi-megalomaniac, self-important tossweed) but ‘likeable’ or even ‘affable’ probably wouldn’t be the kind of characteristics that would be on the tip of your tongue if you were asked to outwardly assess his personality.
His talent is obviously mercurial, but frustratingly fleeting – and it is precisely these sparse glimpses of greatness that keep the big-name suitors queuing up for his services despite his innately repellent nature.
After beginning his career in his native Sweden with Malmo, Ibrahimovic has only ever plyed his trade with giants of the European game. Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and now AC Milan have all been graced with his considerable presence over the years (racking up a cumulative transfer fee of nearly €100 million in the process), and nearly every move between clubs (with the exception of Inter) has come about in acrimonious circumstances.
Whether it be a conspiracy over whether or not he intentionally injured a teammate whilst on international duty (Ajax), threatening legal action in order to emancipate himself from his contract (Juventus) or just good old-fashioned ill-feeling, when Ibrahimovic marches through a club’s exit door it’s usually under a rather bottom-heavy cloud – and his recent ejection from the Camp Nou is no exception.
After a single, fairly underwhelming season with the Spanish champions, Ibrahimovic has made the return trip (on an initial season-long loan deal) back to the Giuseppe Meazza stadium – only this time the sullen Swede will be donning the Rossonerri shirt in return for his princely pay packet, rather than the Nerazzurri number he last sported just 14 short months previous.
As is now tradition, Ibrahimovic has levelled a fairly vicious (and petty) parting shot at his former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, by accusing a man that has won multiple domestic and European titles during his relatively short managerial career of being a ‘small-time’ coach;
“In my book, a great coach solves his problems. A small-time coach runs from them. There was only one person [at Barcelona] who wanted to get rid of me.”
Oh, how we’d all love to read Zlatan’s book.
The ego-driven verbal incontinence continued with the striker forthrightly absolving himself of any of the blame for his lacklustre showing at Barca, blaming Guardiola’s apparent neglect as the reason for his failings at the Camp Nou;
“I have never had problems with any coach before during my career. But suddenly I had a thousand problems and I had no communication with ‘the Philosopher’. No communication whatsoever. I don’t know what his problem was.
I couldn’t take it. I had no choice but to find a new place of work and I was lucky to go to a club like Milan. I am 28-years-old and cannot afford to lose a year sitting on the bench and watching the weather.”
Cynics may suggest that Guardiola probably hasn’t had an awful lot of free time to spend frittering away on idle chatter with Ibra of late, given the inordinate number of man-hours he’s put into buttering up Javier Mascherano and Cesc Fabregas over the past six months – but that’s another debate for a different day.