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Zlatan Ibrahimovic

PSG's unpredictable Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a mercurial talent

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a mercurial talent

Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

The mercurial Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was involved in one of the biggest part-exchange deals in soccer history in July 2009. After three successful seasons with Inter Milan, "Ibra" joined F.C. Barcelona in exchange for Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o and US$65 million.

Ibrahimovic's exquisite, often unorthodox, technical attributes wowed spectators in Italy for five years but he was unable to find the same level of consistency in Spain and in August 2010 he joined AC Milan on a season-long loan deal before a permanent move.

He then moved on to Paris Saint-Germain in July 2012 as the French capital club continued to splash the cash.

Ibrahimovic can be a spiky character and has been accused of not performing well in the biggest matches. A tendency to speak his mind to the press makes for controversial headlines and this combined with his obvious talent ensures he remains compulsive viewing.

Quick Facts:

  • Name: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  • Nationality: Swedish
  • Date and Place of Birth: October 3, 1981 in Malmo, Sweden
  • Position: Striker
  • Current Club: Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1)
  • Previous Clubs: Malmo (1996-2001), Ajax (2001-2004), Juventus (2004-2006), Inter Milan (2006-2009), Barcelona (2009-2010), AC Milan (2010-2012)
  • International Career: 2001 to present

Early Life:

Ibrahimovic was born to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, along with three sisters and two brothers. He started playing football when he was 6, featuring for local junior clubs Malmo BI and FBK Balkan. When playing for hometown club Malmo FF, he considered quitting the game at 15 in favor of working at the docks but was talked out of it by his manager.

The Malmo Years:

The striker made his debut for the Swedish club in 1999 and experienced relegation in his first season. But he helped the club win promotion back to the top league at the first time of asking and his performances were beginning to attract admiring glances from clubs around Europe. It was Ajax who signed him in July 2001 for US$6.6 million.

A Move to Ajax:

Ibrahimovic initially struggled to make the team, but this changed with the arrival of Ronald Koeman as manager. The striker helped Ajax win the title in his debut season with six goals in 26 league appearances.

In his final season at the Amsterdam Arena, he scored a stunning goal against NAC Breda and his 13 strikes in 23 matches helped the club to a second title in three seasons. After 32 league goals for the Dutch outfit, he was on his way again.

Italian Adventure:

Italian giants Juventus signed Ibrahimovic in the summer of 2004 for US$20 million and he was an instant revelation, scoring 16 times.

He made less of an impact the following season but Juventus thought they had won the league for the second time since his arrival. However, the club was stripped of both titles for their part in a corruption scandal. As a further punishment Juventus were relegated to the division below. The Swede did not want to play in the Italian second division, so after a tally of 23 league goals in two seasons, Inter Milan signed him for US$32 million in 2006.

The Inter Milan Years:

Inter have been the most successful club in Italy in the second half of the decade and Ibrahimovic contributed to this in no small way. His 57 league goals helped the Nerazzurri win the Serie A title in each of the three seasons he was there.

An amazing back-heeled effort against Bologna in his final season was the highlight of a spectacular 2008-09 campaign which saw him finish as the league's top scorer with 25 goals. Barcelona was just around the corner.

A Year in Barcelona:

Ibra scored on his league debut against Sporting Gijon, and in each of his next three matches, setting a record as the only Barcelona player to net in the opening four league games of the season.

However, after initially impressing, Ibrahimovic’s form dropped off as he rarely produced the kind of performances to justify his exorbitant price tag.

Towards the end of the season the striker found himself increasingly left out of the team by Josep Guardiola, who the Swede would later claim rarely spoke to him in his final months at the club. In the Champions League semi-final first-leg against former club Inter, he famously ran less distance than his goalkeeper Victor Valdes, supplying ammunition to those accusing him of laziness.

Ibra nonetheless helped Barca to a second straight league title with 16 goals. His four Champions League strikes, including two vital efforts against Arsenal in the quarter-finals, added to another in the Copa del Rey, meant that he finished the season with 21 goals, but that was not enough to keep him at the club.

Return to Serie A:

Ibra joined Milan on loan in the summer of 2010 and he instantly hit his stride. His 14 goals helped the Rossoneri to their first title since 2004 as he quickly became an integral part of Massimiliano Allegri’s team.

He did show his petulant side with two red cards towards the end of the 2010-11 season but will remember the campaign fondly after rediscovering his mojo following that indifferent year in Barcelona.

He was again on form in the 2011-12 season, netting 42 goals in all competition and finishing as the top scorer in Serie A, although he could not prevent former club Juventus winning the Scudetto.

Sweden Career:

An automatic first choice at international level, Ibrahimovic represented Sweden at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. His most productive international tournament was the 2004 European Championships in which he scored a penalty against Bulgaria and a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Italy.

Zlatan struck twice at Euro 2012, including a stunning volley against Framce, but he could not prevent Sweden bowing out in the group stages.

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