Zlatan Ibrahimović gave a very long and extensive interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Sportweek, discussing his childhood and picking his ideal XI, among many other things.
2020 will be remembered as the year of the Coronavirus, but for Milan fans it will be remembered as the year 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimović returned to the club and dragged the Rossoneri back into relevancy and into the title picture in Italy.
While Zlatan has missed a considerable number of games this season through COVID and injuries, his impact on his teammates cannot be denied and he’s arguably the Man of the Year for Milan.
In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Weekend magazine, Sportweek, Zlatan played a sort of a Word Association: each time a letter from his last name – I b r a h i m o v i ć – was taken and the Swede had to comment on an association which starts with one of the letters.
IO, IBRA (I, IBRA)
“I’m self-centered, if I hadn’t put myself in front of everything I would be here. There’s only one Ibra, right? Me. But in my life, off the pitch, now before me there are my children. Maximilian and Vincent come first. Of course. And my bank account, no I’m kidding!”
“Something that never ends, that will last forever. Leave a mark. I like it.”
“I have a vision and the vision happens 9 times out of 10. Is that instinct?”
“My goal against England in 2012. Overhead kick from 40 meters. Top. That is my vision of a bicycle. And then there are the bicycles that I used to steal when I was young; not just one, but many: to go to training I had to travel 7 kilometers, I didn’t have the money to buy a bicycle so if I found one on the street I would borrow it… on loan. I would take it, go, and then someone would take it from me. We’d go around and around. Then once I stole the one of the coach of the Malmö Primavera team, Jula. I was tired after training and had to get home. After three days I gave it back to him and that’s when I made up the story of the loan: I told him ‘Mister, I brought your bike back. I had only borrowed it…'”
BABBO NATALE (SANTA CLAUS)
“I never ask for anything for myself. I am Santa Claus, I’m the one who brings presents to all my 27 children: 2 are in Sweden and the other 25 in Milanello. This year there are many compliments for what we have done and for what we are doing. We’ve lost very little (Ibra does not like to lose). I don’t know if it’s thanks to me but I’ve did something, I’ve brought something in. When I arrived last January, Milan were 12th, they had already written the end, they had already judged before seeing the results: there was no match. Instead, we’ve reached the top, we’re proving we’re a part of the top and now we have to continue like this.”
“Eh, it’s true that I’m quarrelsome, the fight makes me feel alive. The first of my life was against myself, to understand who I was, what I wanted. The only real enemy was me: when I won against myself, I started flying. I was young, challenging myself I realized that I could do what I wanted and I was able to do it. When I decided to be number one in the world, I was more or less 13 or 14 years old. I had so much confidence, because everyone was against me – I was alone against everyone, nobody believed in me. When I asked others ‘what should I do, how does it work?’ I was told that no one had been in my situation. So there I understood, this is my story, if I have to write it then I have to do it all by myself.
RETROMARCIA (REVERSE GEAR)
“Do I look or go back? No. because it’s already too late.”
“I don’t like to have regrets. But in truth I do have one: not being able to meet Muhammed Ali live, he was my inspiration. In this world I’m not so impressed or impressionable by people and what they do. He was number one, a phenomenon for what he was and for what he did.”
“Yes, I can say Grazie. I have to say that to my family who are always with me, in the good times and the bad times. When it’s up and when it’s down. We are very united, they are always around me.”
“The one I put on others or on myself? I don’t have any anxieties, even an empty refrigerator when I didn’t have anything to eat was not an anxiety.”
“Love is how you treat others, it’s not just a word to say, it’s demonstrating. There is the love of the people who support me. And the first of my life, Helena, my wife.”
“She is the mother of my children. He has a lot of patience, a lot of patience. It’s not easy with me. There are four of us in my family (plus a dog and a pig!) and I’m not above anyone just because I’m famous. Everyone has their 25%. We are all at the same level of importance. It’s a balance, there is a balance. I do what I need to do and she does what she needs to do. Freedom of speech, libertà di parola. And I don’t put my beak in her. She takes care of our children, she does it herself, in Sweden. Many times I ask her for advice, but never when I changed clubs. Football is in charge there. Every time, I just told her to pack her bags. And she’s good at it, she’s always done it. We’ve been together for many years, I saw her for the first time in the center of Malmö. I never used to go the center, I was from Rosengård, the ghetto. The first time I went there I saw all these blondes, it seemed like a movie. I was 17 and it was another world for me. I liked it and I started going to the center in the evening. One day I saw her at the station, by chance, she got out of a taxi and I was with my brother. I said, wow, sooner or later I’ll meet her. She was different from the others. I texted her when I found out we had a mutual friend. She didn’t know who I was. I texted her, I’m the one with the red… I had a red Ferrari. I made a fool of myself, but when you come from the ghetto, it’s nice to have a nice car. It’s a sign that you’ve made it. I was 19, I’d just moved to Ajax. She looked at me like I was a little boy, but I didn’t move, I was always there to show her that I was mature. We got together when I went to Juve and she moved to Turin. We’re still together.”
“What is envy? I’m not envious. I have never envied anyone, not even those with blue eyes who seemed more welcome than I was at the Malmö camp. They were always chosen ahead of me. I was pissed off. I felt different and it seemed strange to me because I didn’t know the world yet. For me we were all and we are all the same: blonde hair or black hair, biondi o neri. Then I did a history research and found that foreigners were never so successful. And then I realized that it matters where you come from (even if it doesn’t matter to me) and that made me work even harder to prove that I was better than them. If anyone envies me, I hope they transform this into courage and strength to do what they want to do and what they can’t do.”
“Forza Milan. I have played in many clubs and I have respect for all my clubs. Great memories. But Milan is the club where I feel at home. I go to Milanello every morning and I am not in a hurry to go home, because I am at home. I felt this way the first time I came to Milan, it was 2010. With Galliani and Berlusconi, with the team, all those who worked there, there was another feeling, another atmosphere. They made you feel at home. ‘You are home, do what you want but you have to bring results’. I liked this because I could be myself and at the same time play for one of the biggest clubs in the world. This is why Milan is the top of the top for me. I have many friends in Milano, it will not be strange for me to live there even when I stop playing. In these 10 years the city has grown a lot, it is very international, I like it. And I’m sorry about this COVID-19…”
“Jurka is strong, she is the strongest of all. When I wasn’t doing things, she beat me. When I was wrong, even if I didn’t think that I was wrong and instead I was – she beat me hard, hard. Very hard. And beat me… Now she attacks me too when something is wrong. She was alone with five children, she was cleaning all day around the house and when she came back to us, she was tired. We messed around, when I was little I was very active, always on the go. I lived with my dad but I would go there to eat. She used to make us macaroni and ketchup, the stuff of the poor. Bread and milk, which filled our bellies. She had a small budget and had to cook for a lot of people. She would throw me out: you eat too much. Not with malice, but to make me more relaxed. And when I was wrong, she’d hit me. Once I went up to a house, to the roof, sul tetto, and I fell down. I came home with a black eye, so bad. I opened the door and I ran to her, I was crying: she looked at me and gave me slap…sbam! I asked her, why? ‘Who told you to get on that roof? It is your fault’, she told me. The end. She’s a strong women, she worked a lot in her life, and it wasn’t easy. Maybe we are who we are because she raised us like that.”
“I’ve done a lot, too much. The most important one is to have made a difference on the pitch. To many it seems impossible, one who is almost 2 meters tall is able to do what I do. And I didn’t do it just once, I did it many times. I like it. When I was little I had in mind to become as complete as possible, I didn’t want to be good only at dribbling or shooting or with my head. I wanted to be the strongest in everything. I am complete, this is my magic.”
“I am ‘focus’. When I do something, I have to reach it. When I’m on the field, I’m 200 percent ‘focus’ and I demand the same from all my teammates. Then afterwards we joke around. After.”
“Hate is an ugly word. Hating someone is serious. It means that you have crossed the line, in my world there is no hate. I don’t hate. If you ask me what I don’t like, then I say fake people, but if you are a little intelligent then you recognize them and there’s no need to hate them. I am who I am, but I can also be the other way around because I’ve been both: poor and rich. Well, one thing I don’t like is this constructed, fake world. The famous greet the famous as if they knew each other: ‘hey, hello, how are you?’ If I don’t you know, then I don’t know you.”
“Gold as in the Ballon d’Or? I wouldn’t trade my 12 Guldbollen for one from France Football. Because for me what’s significant is continuity. I have seen many who have won the World Cup, the EUROs, the Champions League, even the Ballon d’Or… they had a wonderful, fantastic year, then they disappeared afterwards. Instead I am in the game for 25 years. Always at the top. Always at the top. I wouldn’t trade anything for a one off, because a one-off is like a knockout, a lucky shot. This is not a lucky shot. There is a big difference.”
“Victory is my drug. It’s hard to explain, but when I’m on the pitch I have to win. At all costs, but always. I have a rating of 95% of victories in training, in the mini-games, 95%. It’s not a lie, when I lose it shows, but it doesn’t happen often because I don’t lose. I’m too fixated on winning, but too much. Perhaps it was understood also by the team, like in the draw with Parma: perhaps six months they would have been happy but this time they were all pissed off and the next day they still were. It must be like that. (Absolutely, drugs is an ugly word. People who take drugs are weak people. Those who have everything and kill themselves, I don’t respect. In the street there are people who do not eat, sleep under bridges and do not give up because they are strong). I have won in all the clubs where I’ve played, but this year with Milan is certainly the best and most difficult challenge in my career. And it’s see how it will end, because if I get something back it will be the most beautiful victory, the best I’ve had. I’m not afraid of dreaming that we can get it done.”
VECCHIAIA (OLD AGE)
“Everyone says I’m old because I’m 39 years old. I don’t want to have advantages, I want to be like others, on the same level, under the same conditions, so I put pressure on myself every day. But old age doesn’t scare me. Every time I’ve made plans, it didn’t go the way I wanted. I’m more for carpe diem. Every day is a new day, what happens – happens. You need to be healthy first and foremost and make everyone around you feel good, positive energy and positive vibes. Good vibes. Because from one moment to the next everything can change. When my brother Šapko died, when leukemia took him away at the age of 40 in 14 months, I understood that life was fast; you have to feel good and enjoy yourself because you should have no regrets.”
“I get really pissed off when I lose, but I’m not a bad loser. I’m not looking for excuses. Never. If I get pissed… you better stay away. Helena knows me and says Ciao. When I turn up the volume, she turns it down and walks away. Not to agree with him, but on the contrary she tells me that I’m stupid. And she goes away.”
“I have done a lot of them, but in this world everyone thinks to… to be perfect. But if you don’t fuck up, you don’t grow, you don’t learn. I’ll keep on doing them. I’ve done a lot of them. Once I stole a car, but not because I needed it like with the bicycle, it was just for adrenaline. But I ran away immediately because I didn’t feel well. We were 5 friends, ghetto shit. Also in football, uuuhhh a lot, I’m more mature now. I don’t look for a fight, it happens. When I was at Milan the first time with Onyewu; however, I was honest and quick – I called Galliani right away. I said ‘listen’ – no, I didn’t say ‘listen’, I said ‘sorry’. Before other people call you, I’ll tell you what happened, blah blah blah… do what you want, take a monthly salary, I accept everything. Then he was bigger than me, he said: ‘we are family, you said sorry, let us move on’.”
“I choose 11 for their greatness or for affection. Those who have given me something more. Ibra, Ibra, Ibra… No, I’ll be serious: Buffon in goal. The strongest. We had a good time at Juve. That was a special team, my first top club. Everyone was… like me with these young Milan players (who… we’ll see if they talk about me in the future!). They had a lot to teach and they were an example. Maxwell at left back, he’s my friend. Then, if we put animals in then Nesta and Cannavaro at central defense: there were so many laughs with Fabio, he used to take me around Naples on a scooter, he was crazy… but I’m more. I had no experience, Cannavaro and Thuram had too much. It would be nice to play with them today, now it would be different. Right-back: Maicon, when he arrived he was not considered as strong as he later became at Inter – three very beautiful years. Then, Nedved, number one, he improved me more than anyone else – both in my head and in my game. When I saw him I understood that what I was doing was not enough, I had to do more. Nedved is a work machine: he worked before, during and after training. Then Vieira and Xavi. That Barcelona was a team of phenomena: the first six months were at the top, then because of the coach [Guardiola] I wasn’t well… Can I put people I haven’t played with? Maybe I’ll put Cafu at right-back, he’s nastier. The attack is easy: Zidane as a trequartista, when he entered the field he made all the others become Zidane. Ronaldo, il Fenomeno, my idol. And Maradona, because he’s the strongest of all time. Yes, he was stronger than me too. This time I’m the coach, and one day who knows if I really will be…”