Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Hero or Villain?

  • @simmyrichman

Last July he became the most expensive football player of all time – racking up a little over €171m (£137m) in combined transfer fees on signing for his seventh club, Paris Saint-Germain – and last week he was widely hailed as having scored the greatest goal ever … What's not to love about Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Let's start with those two things. Seven clubs? This man could give Nicolas Anelka a run for his money in the lack-of-loyalty stakes. If you or I had a CV that showed no more than three years' service in any one place, prospective employers would have every right to be suspicious. And that this footballing mercenary scored that goal on the very night Steven Gerrard, the epitome of the old-school, one-club man, was winning his 100th cap, only rubbed salt into the wound.

To the goal itself, then. It was, we grudgingly admit, a decent enough strike. Albeit one that came in the dying minutes of a meaningless friendly. Gifted by a goalkeeping error that meant the ball was hit into an empty net. The best ever? Not even the best bicycle kick ever: Wayne Rooney's against Manchester City last year was balletic rather than a speculative karate kick.

But none of this is what earns Ibrahimovic his horns here – because with his preening, posing manner, all-too-immaculate ponytailed mane, and Max Cady tattoos, there is no need to delve into this player's prowess on the pitch to make that call.

And so we come to what we know about what goes on in the mind of the man who trademarked the name "Zlatan" at the Swedish Patent and Registration Office.

Asked what his wife wants for her birthday, he replied: "Nothing, she already has Zlatan." He told his manager at Barcelona: "You bought a Ferrari but drive it like a Fiat." And he told a reporter who dared question his masculinity: "Come to my house and see if I'm gay. And bring your sister."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then. Overpaid, overindulged, overhyped for an overhead kick