Zlatan Ibrahimovic born October 3, 1981 is a Swedish football player of Bosniak and Croatian descent. He plays as a striker. He currently plays for Inter Milan, in Italy, and for the Sweden national football team.
Ibrahimović was born in Sweden as the son of immigrants from former Great Serbia. His father was born in Bijeljina (Republika Srpska) and his mother in Knin (Krajina). His parents met in Sweden and Zlatan grew up in Rosengård, a Malmö neighborhood 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. Ibrahimović began playing football at the age of ten. His initial local club was called FK Beli Orlovi, whose participants unsurprisingly were Serbian and Somalian immigrants of the Rosengård neighborhood. In 1995 he joined Malmö FF.
Other than Wenger, Leo Beenhakker also showed interest in Ibrahimović after observing him practicing in La Manga, Spain. Watching Ibrahimović score an amazing goal in a training game against Norwegian side Moss, Beenhakker became convinced of his 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.
Ibrahimović received little playing time under manager Co Adriaanse, but when Adriaanse was sacked on November 29, 2001, new coach Ronald Koeman inserted Ibrahimović into the starting lineup as Ajax won the 2001-02 Eredivisie title. The next season, Ibrahimović scored twice in a 2-1 victory over perennial French champions Olympique Lyonnais in his first career Champions League match on September 17, 2002. He scored four CL goals overall for Ajax, who were eliminated in the quarterfinals by A.C. Milan.
Ibrahimović moved from Ajax to Juventus for a €19 million transfer fee. 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 favorite players (Capello had tried to get him already at Roma), but mostly thanks to Ibrahimović’s fine performances. He scored 16 goals, and this was in a league that is considered to be very hard for strikers to score in (especially for a foreign striker).
Ibrahimović made his debut in the Swedish national team in a goal-less friendly match against Faroe Islands January 31, 2001. The match only featured players from the Scandinavian Leagues. The first competitive game he played in for the national team was the World Cup qualifying game against Azerbaijan in October 7 the same year. Ibrahimović was included in Sweden’s 2002 World Cup squad that managed to go through to the finals despite playing in the Group of Death against Argentina, England and Nigeria. He only played for 45 minutes but nearly made the telling contribution in Sweden’s eventual Golden Goal defeat at the hands of Senegal.
Ibrahimović contributed heavily to Sweden’s successful attempt to qualify to the 2006 World Cup. Both Sweden and Ibrahimović were thought to under-achieve in the tournament, though. He was substituted at half time in one game, against Paraguay, and did not participate in another, against England, due to a groin injury. How much his performances in the other games were affected by this is hard to know. Sweden was knocked out in the 2nd round by Germany.
Mellberg and Wilhelmsson grudgingly accepted the punishment, but Ibrahimović felt that it was unjust. Thus, he refused to take part in the following games against Iceland and Spain. Sweden went on to win these matches without Ibrahimović. He also refused to take part in a friendly match against Egypt on February 7, but it has been reported lately that Ibrahimović agreed to return to Swedish national team. On March 28th, 2007, in a European Championship Qualifier game, Zlatan made his return. In the last match against Denmark Ibrahimović, responded to his critics, mesmerizing the audience with brilliant football, earning standing ovations as well as the Man of the Match award.
Ibrahimović is 192 cm tall and powerfully built, and thus physical strength is one of his greatest assets. Since his arrival 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 Ibrahimović 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.
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