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It took a heroic performance for his country of Sweden for the world to finally give him the praise that he was long overdue. Four goals in a single-handed 4-2 victory over England finally got the world talking about a man who has been outstanding for his entire career. The world had finally acknowledged him for what he is – he is Zlatan Ibrahimović.
In his outstanding four goal performance against England, “Ibra” scored a goal that many have dubbed one of the best of all time. With Joe Hart rushing off his line, Ibra attempted a ludicrous bicycle kick from around 25 yards from goal, looping the ball over Joe Hart and into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the match and insurance of victory over England.
That goal marked his 39th for his country in his 85th senior appearance, and it proved even further than Ibra can perform on any stage.
He started his career with the clubteam from his town of birth – Malmö FF. He played for Malmö’s senior side from 1999-2001, making 40 appearances and scoring 16 goals in the process. Before long, Europe took note, and Ibrahimović joined Dutch powerhouse Ajax.
He spent just over three seasons at Ajax, playing 74 times and scoring 35 goals as he helped Ajax to two Eredivisie titles and one KNVB Cup. His performances captured the attention of some of Europe’s bigger clubs, and after a controversial incident with teammate Rafael van der Vaart, Ibra was transfered to Italian side Juventus for a fee of €16 million in 2004.
His time at Juventus again brought him silverware, as his 23 goals in 70 appearances helped Juventus to two consecutive Serie A titles. Both titles were revoked from Juventus due to the Calciopoli scandal (Juventus were caught up in match-fixing) and as a result, the club was also demoted to Serie B.
Ibrahimović was a player with ambitions to compete for the highest honours, so it was no surprise when he left newly-relegated Juventus in the summer of 2006.
He joined Juventus’ Italian rivals Inter Milan for €24.8 million and immediately had success, a pattern which was beginning to (and would continue to) form in his career. He scored 57 goals in 88 appearances for the Nerazzurri, leading them to three consecutive Serie A titles and two Italian supercups.
Again though, Ibra was on the move. He joined Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in a deal where Samuel Eto’o and cash were given to Inter to secure Ibrahimović’s transfer. Debates occured on whether Ibra could fit into Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” style of play, but despite this, he had a relatively successful season, scoring 16 goals and contributing nine assists in 29 games, again winning a league title as well as one UEFA Supercup, one FIFA club world cup and two Spanish supercups.
After a falling out with Guardiola, Ibrahimović went on loan to his third Italian giant, AC Milan, in the summer of 2010. Ibra scored 14 goals and contributed 13 assists in his first season with Milan, winning the Serie A title (his 8th consecutive domestic title in a row) along the way, prompting Milan to activate his €24 million clause and sign him permanently.
Ibra continued to be a great goalscorer in the following season, notching 28 goals in only 32 appearances as AC Milan fell short in Serie A (although Ibra was named the league’s top scorer for that season) to eventual winners Juventus. This brought his Milan career to an end, as he joined Paris Saint-Germain’s financial revolution this past summer for an initial fee of around €20 million.
So far this season, Ibra has scored 12 goals in only 11 matches and has become the face of PSG’s new-look side. Ibra has found success at every club he has played for, and he is likely to do so again with PSG.
Critics can say whatever they want about him, but the truth is that wherever he has played, he has been instrumental in the success of his clubs. He is a towering striker with the finess and technical qualities of a winger, and the world should be thankful to have witnessed the once in a lifetime talent that is Zlatan Ibrahimović.