I am Football: Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the most iconic names in football history. He is one of the most decorated active players in football. Zlatan has played for one of the biggest clubs in football history ( Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Ac Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United). In this candid autobiography, one of the most enigmatic footballers of his generation shares his opinions on his great career and personal life. It has received numerous accolades for its candour and no-holds-barred attitude. It’s arrogant and aggressive, and it perfectly describes the guy, but it’s also evident that he’s self-aware, and has harnessed his inner qualities to become one of football’s most revered figures during the previous two decades.

I Am Football is extensively illustrated with photographs from Zlatan’s football career and concludes with over 50 pages of statistics from his career between 1999 and 2018, addressing queries such as how many minutes he played for Inter and how many goals he scored with his right foot. A compilation of all the facts for every club he has ever played for, as well as the Swedish national team.

It covers his football career from Malmö FF to Manchester United and the move to LA Galaxy, giving us a first-hand account of how he climbed from underdog to superstar, his move from Milan to Paris SG, and how he dealt with his devastating knee injury at Manchester United. On top of that, he tells us about his objectives, victories, and the constant sensation of needing to be better in order to be accepted. The book also includes interviews with players, managers, and friends who have been a part of his journey, such as José Mourinho, Paul Pogba, Patrick Vieria, Roland Andersson, Henrik Larsson, Thierry Henry, and Mino Raiola, to provide a more complete portrait of the man himself.

Much of the book has been serialised, with Arsenal requesting a trial and a slew of obscenities aimed at Pep Guardiola and Barcelona in general, but the story is far more interesting than any of the juicy sections picked ripe for press publication. There’s a lot to Zlatan; his family, particularly his father, were profoundly wounded by the Yugoslavia conflict, which had an impact on the footballer’s upbringing as a child. Zlatan goes out of his way to praise his father whenever there is a hint of criticism, but there is no escaping the stories about a young Zlatan frequently arriving home to find no food in the house while his father drank beer and listened to ‘Yugo’ music. His environment appears to have pushed Zlatan to seek out the guardian position that he had missed out on for much of his boyhood. The battles, disputes, and rebellion are all nicely chronicled and humourous as well as informative, but Zlatan looked to be looking for others to parent him for most of his early career without publicly asking for it.

The way he talks about Helena(his wife) makes it plain that he considers himself fortunate to have her; the two couldn’t be more dissimilar, and Helena was the stereotypical older lady in that she was classy, educated, and smart. Mino Raiola, who Zlatan worked with as an agent at Ajax, was the polar opposite. He was fat, sweary, pushy, and as impolite as he could get away with. None of that mattered since Mino got things done and really aided Zlatan.

While most will be left with the story of a man growing up and eventually fulfilling all of his aspirations, there is no getting away from the battles. Zalatan’s struggle with a petulant Rafael van der Vaart at Ajax is intriguing, and his AC Milan training ground brawl that left a teammate with a black eye reveals a lot about what manager Fabio Capello was willing to accept, and even promote. Capello is one of those men who commands Zlatan’s respect without question and has taught the player to accept it rather than earn it.

He’s arrogant, but it quickly becomes evident that much of this was developed as a protective strategy in childhood and increased when his anxieties about trusting people were validated. It would be difficult to read the book without warming to the player, and there is far more to learn from this than from any other football autobiography published in recent years.

With the revelations and insights, almost every page might launch a story on its own. As much as a look at Zlatan Ibrahimovic, this is a good view on how football truly works at the top level and will leave a football fan more informed on the dynamics of the game.

Categories: Book Review, Sports

Tagged as: , ,