A conference call with Zlatan Ibrahimovic – eccentric Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden striker, professional brooder, devout worshipper at the altar of Zlatan, serial third-person referrer of self, mass-winner of league championships, and delightful provocateur – is an experience.
We had one such opportunity on Friday, so here, free of framing, editing or diluting, the best things he said in his deep, ear-ringing voice during the half-hour call.
On the Ballon D’Or, for which he wasn’t nominated as a finalist:
“I’m the best, boy.”
On coming to Major League Soccer:
“I’m not nominated for the Golden Ball so, I don’t know, maybe in America nobody knows who I am there. So maybe I should come over and play some seasons so people get to know me.”
On his favorite player to watch:
“My favorite player all time is Ronaldo The Phenomeno, of course, but he’s not active today. Eeehhh… As you play every day, train every day… pffff… play games almost every three days it’s not easy to watch even football when you come home. I have two kids to take care of and other interesting things I’m doing in my life, other hobbies, so it’s not like football 24 hours. I like to see big games and that’s it. Finals of tournaments and these kind of games that is exciting to watch but I’m not the one that like to watch a lot of football.”
On what it would take for a player of his stature in his prime to come to America:
“I can only speak for myself. It could be interesting to go over to America and try the football there but today it’s not interesting.”
On continuing to improve into his 30s:
“I’m like the wine. The older the wine is the better it is. So the older I get, the better I get.”
On whether, as the question was posed by KICK TV’s Jimmy Conrad, when Zlatan plays against Real Madrid in a friendly in Doha on Jan. 2, Zlatan will kick him extra hard for taking away Zlatan’s opportunity to go to Brazil: “No. I think Zlatan will be very cool with Ronaldo. Zlatan will do a good preparation and Zlatan will play the game and then Zlatan will focus on the rest of the season for 2014. Zlatan is very happy for Ronaldo that he’s going to the World Cup and Zlatan will see what will happen under the World Cup.”
On whether he’ll be watching the World Cup:
“I didn’t reach the World Cup. I think disappointment will come back during the World Cup. For sure I will see some games but it’s not like I will run home and sit in front of the television and say, Now the game begins. If I switch channel and the game is there I will watch it. And I will be cheering my teammates that will be cheering the World Cup. Hopefully one of them will win and I will be as happy as if I would play the World Cup for them.”
On his thoughts on the Bosnian national team reaching the World Cup for the first time (Zlatan’s father is Bosnian):
“I think it’s positive. It has been a difficult time down in the Yugoslavia that separated in many nations. It hasn’t been easy for them. I wish everything was in one and then I wanted to see the national team that came out of that. I think it would be an amazing national team because of the players that is representing every country like Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and smaller countries around. That would be very exciting.”
On whether more European teams should play pre-season in the United States:
“It’s a good thing, especially for U.S., like promoting the football there which is not as big as it is in Europe. I think they want to do it more attractive, more interesting. The best way to do it is to bring the best European teams. When you get to see them in the U.S. you see totally different football because it’s not the same level in Major League Soccer like it is in Europe. The more the European teams are seen in the U.S. the more commercial the U.S. gets and the more the interest gets bigger for the football.”
On whether his egotistical image bothers him:
“No, absolutely not. I try to be myself and then you have the media that push the level of the conversation. When you ask a stupid question you get a stupid answer, that’s the way it is. I just try to be myself in every question I get and in the beginning of my career I remember people build me like I’m the cocky one. ‘He’s arrogant, he has a big ego.’ But if you have a big ego you don’t win 20 collective trophies, so this is something media makes up and something I have to live with. But I flow with the rhythm. For me, I don’t mind.”
"I’m the best, boy!"