Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been wow-ing us all season long, that’s nothing new. Seemingly every weekend he provides us with a goal worthy of the yearly highlight reel.
But did you know Ligue 1’s top scorer — 23 goals and counting — also leads the league in assists this season with 12? Yeah, he can do it all.
Proving that his brilliance knows no bounds, Zlatan showed off his other skill set with a lovely back-heel pass to Ezequiel Lavezzi during PSG’s 3-0 win over Bastia on Saturday.
Game. Set. Zlatan.
Swedish car makers Volvo booked Zlatan Ibrahimovic to star in a new TV commercial with the campaign slogan “Made in Sweden.” As Sweden’s favorite son, Zlatan was the obvious choice here, and he doesn’t disappoint.
In the 2-minute long ad, Zlatan hunts deer, jumps in an icy pond, and at times reminds you of the Rocky workout montage in the Russian winter. The only thing Zlatan doesn’t do here is the song, but who really knows. Would you be surprised if he sings like an angel?
We just wish we could understand what Zlatan was saying the whole time. From what we gather, everything he loves — the wild, his family, himself, the Volvo? — is Swedish.
2013 Ballon d’Or
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.”
Miroslav Stoch won last year’s Puskas Award (Image: Getty)
On the same day FIFA released the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or (shocker, it’s Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery), the final three candidates for the esteemed Puskas Award were also announced. Annually given to the player who scored the year’s best goal, the original group of ten candidates has been narrowed down to golazos by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar and Nemanja Matic.
Whereas the Ballon d’Or is voted on by a select group of journalists as well as national team managers and captains, the Puskas Award is determined entirely by you, the fans. Another public vote on the day of the Ballon d’Or awards, January 13th, will decide the winner. You can find instructions on how to vote on FIFA’s website.
Here are the finalists:
What a day of football.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a tremendous hat trick to lead Portugal into the 2014 World Cup — besting Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s brace, which had briefly revived Sweden’s hopes — while France became the first nation ever to qualify for a major tournament after losing a playoff first leg 0-2 on the road.
Elsewhere, Greece and Croatia also booked their tickets to Brazil, while African World Cup qualifying concluded with Ghana and Algeria claiming the last two African spots.
Care to see some goals now? Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic held their own personal shootout at Friends Arena, with CR7 ultimately besting Zlatan, 3 goals to 2. Whereas Ibra scored his brace on a pair of set pieces — one being an unstoppable free kick — Ronaldo feasted on a trio of breakaways, each finish cooler than the last:
Ronaldo thus wrapped up a clutch performance for the ages; he scored all four of Portugal’s goals over the two legs to ensure that he, and not Zlatan, is heading to Brazil. Not surprisingly, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was quick to congratulate Ronaldo, just weeks after publicly slighting him in favor of Lionel Messi. Even Blatter must have realized that a World Cup without the Ballon d’Or frontrunner would kind of be a bummer:
— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter)
Ibrahimovic, for his part, could only applaud:
Lovely sporting gesture from Ibrahimovic to applaud Ronaldo’s hat-trick goal. pic.twitter.com/8hugbZHrBK— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker)
A historic moment of truth for Zlatan, realizing there are other players out there as good as him?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic ”One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch so it is not worth while to wait for the World Cup.”— Get Football News (@GetFootballNews)
Eh, maybe not.
Home fans were in a much better mood in Paris, as France grabbed a historic win over the Ukraine. Needing to win by three goals or more (had Ukraine scored an away goal), Les Bleus did just that, capping the comeback on an own goal in the 72nd minute:
Good thing, too. Imagine a Carnival without France. Impossible!
— Amy Lawrence (@amylawrence71)
Before Tuesday, soccer fans had to prepare themselves for the possibility of a World Cup without the two leading Ballon d’Or candidates — Ronaldo and France’s Franck Ribery (apologies, Messi, but you were simply injured too often in 2013).
It would have been the first time in history that the reigning Ballon d’Or winner would watch the World Cup from home. But thanks to two incredible performances — one by Ronaldo himself, the other, a great team performance by France — those fears have been squashed. A great World Cup awaits.
Only without Zlatan.
Images provided by Reuters.
Ronaldo 1, Zlatan 0.
Portugal’s captain was the difference against Sweden on Friday, scoring on a diving header in the 81st minute to give his country a slim advantage ahead of the return leg in the World Cup qualifying playoffs tie:
Video by all-goals
Days earlier, Ronaldo’s foil and Sweden’s talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic had talked the talk, but then failed to walk the walk.
"I think that the World Cup needs Zlatan more than Ronaldo," Ibrahimovic said. "The excitement I can bring to the game and the goals I can score - nobody can rival me for that. I believe the fans would want to see me there above anybody."
Alas, Zlatan and his Zlataneers provided rarely any excitement in the first leg, getting out-shot 19 to 6 by Portugal and having possession only 32% of the match, according to WhoScored.com. Ibra had a shockingly quiet game; he mustered just a single attempt on goal and was only otherwise spotted when he either fouled or drifted offside.
Then again, someone probably needs to get the ball to him. The Swedes turned in an astonishingly bad pass completion rate of 58%. That’s right, almost every other pass failed to find a teammate. Barring a complete turnaround performance in Solna on Tuesday, the World Cup will have to take place without Zlatan. Pouty face.
Not much needs to be said about the video above. Not much CAN be said about the video above.
All you need to know is that YouTube user HeilRJ03 compiled an array of back-heel goals off the dexterous feet of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo. This compilation comes just in time as the intergalactic giants are set to meet in Friday’s crucial World Cup qualifying match between Portugal and Sweden.
It’s a shame that one of these stars will miss next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Fortunately, we have this footage to relieve us of our sorrows. Just hit play and enjoy.