Ibrahimovic the maverick: Martial arts expert, star of France's Spitting Image… with a trademark on his own name
10:47 GMT, 15 November 2012
Perhaps it should not be a surprise that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was capable of the gravity-defying athleticism that helped him score one of history's greatest goals against England. After all, he has been a black belt in taekwondo since his teens.
The Swede was just 17 when he received the accolade at his local sports club, Enighet, in Malmo. He even earned honorary membership of the Italian taekwondo team during his career at AC Milan.
Since then, his career has been littered with spectacular acts utilising the combat techniques and self-defence he learned in his early life.
Zlatan’s flexibility is one of his greatest assets on the football field and it also helped him reach up to kick team-mate Antonio Cassano in the head.
The then-AC Milan bad boy was conducting a TV interview when Zlatan popped by and gave him a friendly shoeing.
That he managed to get his foot so high is testament to his balance. That he used his reach for such nefarious means is testament to his character.
From the wonderful goals to the random kicks of team-mates during training and live TV interviews, before Wednesday's piece de resistance, the audacious 30-yard propeller kick that was his, and Sweden's, fourth in a 4-2 win.
The breathtaking goal comes, though, less than two weeks after he was sent off in a Ligue 1 game for Paris St Germain attempting to pluck a ball out of the sky, with his feet more than two metres from the ground.
Zlatan also made headlines in Italy when he kicked team-mate Antonio Cassano during the Italy international's chat with pitchside reporters. And so it goes on…
So here, Sportsmail lifts the lid on one of modern football's most enigmatic stars.
Jumping for joy: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored one of history's great goals in the win over England
When a female reporter jokingly suggested he was gay, Ibra retorted: 'Come to my house and you’ll see if I’m gay. And bring your sister.'
When a piece of skill left then-Liverpool defender Stephane Henchoz for dead: 'First I went left, he did too. Then I went right, and he did too. Then I went left again and he went to buy a hot dog.'
When asked if he had found a house in Paris following his move to PSG: 'We are looking for an apartment. If we don’t find anything, then I’ll probably just buy the hotel.'
When asked to which other sportsman he should be compared: 'I'm like Muhammed Ali. When he said he would knock someone out in the fourth round, he did it.'
The simple stuff
Zlatan was born in Malmo, southern Sweden, to Sefik Ibrahimovic and Jurka Gravic, but his parents divorced when he was two. His family suffered from both alcohol and drug abuse, and the precocious talent found himself embroiled in shoplifting and other petty crimes.
He admitted: 'I was a savage, a lunatic and I couldn’t control my temper.' Arguably not much has changed.
Although Zlatan’s macho posturing is the side of him we are more familiar with, this touching excerpt from his autobiography might make you think a little differently about the big man.
‘I got a bike when I was little, a BMX. I called it “Fido Dido” after the tough little cartoon guy with spiked hair,’ he wrote. ‘I thought he was the coolest thing ever.
'The bike got stolen outside of the Rosengard swimming baths and Dad went there with his shirt open and sleeves rolled up. He’s the kind of person that says: “No one touches my kids! No one takes their stuff”.
‘But not even a tough guy like him could do anything about it. Fido Dido was gone, and I was crushed.’
Happy birthday: Zlatan and wife Helena Seger
The best gift of all
The striker was asked what he had bought his wife for her birthday. Nonplussed, he replied: ‘Nothing, she already has Zlatan.’ It’s difficult to argue with that.
That’s my name, don’t wear it out
If you had any doubt about Zlatan’s knowledge of his own worth, this will set you straight – he has trademarked his own name.
In 2003 the striker applied for a ‘community trademark’, which is valid across the EU, on ‘Zlatan’ and ‘Zlatan Ibrahimovic’.
This applies to sporting goods, beer and more, with anybody’s use of the term ‘Zlatan’ in these contexts ‘most likely being perceived as (relating to) Zlatan Ibrahimovic’.
Spoiling for a fight
In training at Juventus he was involved in a couple of bust-ups. First he punched defender Jonathan Zebina in the face after suffering a bad tackle. Then he fouled Oguchi Onyewu, who did not take kindly to it – the pair had a major scrap.
Ibra spoke about the incidents: ‘Zebina went down immediately, not like that animal of an American, who’s big like me.' It later transpired that he had one of his ribs broken by Onyewu in the altercation.
Zlatan doesn't do auditions
He explained how he met Arsene Wenger and nearly joined Arsenal in 2000, but changed his mind when asked if he would have a trial there.
‘Arsene gave me the famous red and white jersey – the No 9 shirt with Ibrahimovic on it and I was so pleased I even posed for a picture wearing it,’ he said.
‘It was a fantastic moment for me. Arsenal had a great team then and here was an Arsenal shirt made just for me. So then I waited for him to convince me that I should join Arsenal. But he didn’t even try.
‘He never actually made me a serious offer, it was more, “I want to see how good you are, what kind of player you are. Have a trial”. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions”.’
He ended up signing for Ajax.
What a nice man
In 2007 he opened a football arena in his home district of Rosengard in Malmo, where he used to play during his childhood. The pitch was created out of recycled athletics shoes. But in true Zlatan style the entrance carries a melodramatic inscription which read: ‘Here is my heart. Here is my story. Here is my play. Take it further. Zlatan.’
Hero: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the captain, leader, legend of the Swedish national team
Need for Speed
‘I always drive like a madman. I got to 325kmph (202mph), leaving the police behind. I’ve done so many silly things I daren’t think about now,’ wrote Zlatan in his book.
He also caused trouble by driving one of his fast cars to work.
Zlatan said: ‘Barca players were banned from driving their sports cars to training. I thought this was ridiculous – it was no one’s business what car I drive – so in April, before a match with Almeria, I drove my Ferrari Enzo to work. It caused a scene.’
It was clear that Zlatan was not content with being a cog, even as part of the best machine in the world. His fractious relationship with Guardiola came to a head when he went face-to-face with the Spaniard and told him he had no balls.
Zlatan explained: ‘Guardiola was staring at me and I lost it. I thought “there is my enemy, scratching his bald head!” I yelled to him: “You have no balls!” and probably worse things than that.'
Read all about it: I, Zlatan
His confrontations with and comments about Guardiola are endless. Zlatan often compared Jose Mourinho, whom he loved, with Pep.
‘You are s***ting yourself because of Jose Mourinho. You can go to hell!’ he told his boss.
Zlatan also tried to intimidate the tactician. ‘I threw a box full of training gear across the room, it crashed to the floor and Pep said nothing, just put stuff back in the box,’ he said. ‘I’m not violent, but if I were Guardiola I would have been frightened.’
Zlatan’s autobiography was described as ‘the height of self-indulgence’. And for good reason – titled I Am Zlatan (also known as I, Zlatan) it gave him a platform to display his astonishing arrogance without constraint.
The book has been shortlisted for the Swedish equivalent of the Booker Prize and is expected to shift 'hundreds of thousands' when issued in French next month. In contrast, Rooney's book has sold only 6,000 in 7 weeks.
Getting slappy on the sly
hot-tempered Zlatan slapped Aronica Salvatore and tried to make it look
like it occurred while he was simply putting his arm around Antonio
Nocerino. It confused Aronica, who hit Nocerino in response, but not the
referee, who promptly red carded the protagonist.
From Paris, with love
Zlatan moved to Paris St-Germain in the summer he was asked whether or
not he had found somewhere to live in the French capital.
He responded: ‘We are looking for an apartment. If we don’t find anything, then I’ll probably just buy the hotel.’
The extravagant striker didn’t seem very well prepared for his move. When asked what he knew about the league he was moving to he said: ‘It’s true I don’t know that much about the players here in Ligue 1… but they definitely know who I am.’
French fancy: Ibrahimovic has proved a big hit since moving to Paris from AC Milan in August
Zlatan has taken Paris by storm since his move from Milan in August. He had his own puppet on their nightly version of Spitting Image, an honour it tends to inflict on presidents, politicians and pop culture stars.
It is ultra-violent, only speaks of himself in the third person, eats horse heads and entire pigs for breakfast, and comes home to his wife by handing her a mop and saying, 'clean my house, then I will Zlatan you'.
In one sketch, the puppet touts a cologne, 'Eau de Zlatan', made from concentrated Zlatan sweat.
One French television show plays the Darth Vader theme music when it reports on the hotshot striker
And only last week, the editor of the French OED was asked on national TV if he would consider including the verb 'Zlataner' in the next edition. The word has passed into general use, describing nailing something, or destroying it.
Let the football do the talking
For all the lazy lines about him being a ‘bully’ who only scores in small-time games and can’t cope against English opposition, how was Wednesday night for a riposte
His long-range bicycle kick which ended the match summed him up. Incredible and preposterous in equal measure.
And while in his youth at Ajax he showed Messi-like composure to fool an entire defence and net another of those hailed among the best ever.