Book of the Week: I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic as told to David Lagercrantz

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is relatively unheralded in this country, though the tall, dark Swedish striker with a distinctly un-Nordic name certainly made England sit up and take notice when putting four past Joe Hart in Stockholm last year.

His autobiography is equally astonishing as he describes how he fought – often literally – his way out of a tough immigrant quarter of Malmo to become one of the highest-paid footballers in the world, winning 10 league titles at Ajax, Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, Milan and Paris St-Germain and scoring 48 goals in 96 appearances for Sweden.

Born of a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, he was a teenage tearaway – he celebrated his promotion to Malmo’s first team by nicking a bike – and has never been one to back down from physical confrontation – be it with racists, an opponent, a team-mate, or even a band of Inter’s feared Ultra supporters, who objected to his desire to leave the club.

In Ibrahimovic’s world there are few grey areas: you are either for him or against him, and expect no mercy in the latter case. While he enjoyed working for Jose Mourinho at Inter, he calls Pep Guardiola, who was his manager at Barcelona, “a spineless coward” and cheerfully admits: “I can bear incredible grudges”.

You wouldn’t like to meet him on the road, either; “I like guys who go through red lights,” he says. “I’ve done 325kph in my Porsche Turbo, and left the cops eating my dust”.

Occasionally this bombast makes him look faintly ridiculous, as when he quarrels with Nike, one of his sponsors, about the colour of the boots they want him to wear.

But there’s never a dull moment on Planet Zlatan. This is a snarling, fizzing, unrepentant firecracker of a book; if footballers’ memoirs bore you, make an exception for this one.

Published in paperback by Penguin, £8.99

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