Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born in Malmö in southern Sweden in 1981 to parents from Yugoslavia. His father was a Muslim from Bosnia who migrated to Sweden in 1977; his mother was a Catholic from Croatia. Tall, powerful, super-confident and a born goalscorer, Zlatan attracted attention from big European clubs. In 2001 he joined Ajax; two years later he signed for Juventus of Turin.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a big player at big clubs. He moved from Juventus to AC Milan, winning three Serie A titles. In Spain, he won trophies with Barcelona. In France, he won four Ligue 1 titles at Paris St Germain. Zlatan also played 100 times for Sweden (and scored all four goals in a famous 4-2 victory over England). He had brief periods playing in Los Angeles and Manchester United before going back to AC Milan. Even at 38 years old he is still in demand at the top of the game.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has always been a divisive personality. Charismatic and opinionated, he has often been criticised as “arrogant”. He fell out with other players (and managers, Pep Guardiola ended up not speaking to him at Barcelona). His autobiography, Being Zlatan, published in 2015, caused much controversy. He is one of the few active footballers to have a statue in his honour, in Malmo. Perhaps predictably, the statue has frequently been vandalised.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a big personality with a high public profile. Few footballers have had a statue in their honour, or published an autobiography, while still active as a player. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has done both. His dual identity as one of Sweden’s finest players and as a man of Yugoslav heritage has made him a source for fascination and controversy.
Educators could look at the life story of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and work with young people to consider these points.
Find out more
Upon his arrival to play in the United States, the newspaper LA Times wrote this interesting back story.