On Wednesday night, Paris Saint-Germain face Chelsea in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final at the Parc des Princes.
But this game represents more than a battle for a place in the semi-finals; this is a clash between the two biggest egos in world football: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jose Mourinho.
And at the end of this tie, one of these egos is going to be severely bruised.
Players and managers can often be embarrassed to admit they have an ego, and they can needlessly spread praise amongst the rest of the team, however, the very best need that intense self-belief to drive themselves on.
Refreshingly, Mourinho and Ibrahimovic have never been shy about admitting their own brilliance, but who has the biggest ego of the pair?
When Mourinho first arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004, he famously revealed the mammoth size of his ego when he was unveiled to the world’s media.
As reported by the BBC, Mourinho announced: "I have top players and I'm sorry, we have a top manager. Please do not call me arrogant because what I say is true. I'm European champion, I'm not one out of the bottle, I think I'm a special one."
This was a calculated risk. If Mourinho faltered or failed, he knew he would be mercilessly mocked and dismissed as an arrogant clown.
But it was his way of motivating himself, and putting pressure on both himself and his opponents by boldly stating his intentions.
While others would let their achievements speak for themselves, Mourinho simply couldn’t suppress his ego and wanted to ram home the message: I just won the Champions League with Porto.
Another manager, another genuine winner, Sir Alex Ferguson knew exactly what Mourinho was doing, as he told The Independent in 2005, “Possibly by being so confident, so sure, his players say to themselves, ‘We'd better not let him down…’”
And that season his players didn’t let him down. Mourinho proved yet again he was special by leading Chelsea to their first title in exactly 50 years with both the record for the most points won in the Premier League ad the fewest goals conceded.
In his first spell at Stamford Bridge, he won another Premier League title in 2006, an FA Cup and two League Cups.
There is method in Mourinho’s ego, he is not simply spouting off, it is a part of his plan to help his teams. He is the face of his teams; their firewall, their protector.
At his second unveiling, as reported by The Daily Mail, Mourinho was asked if his ego still remained huge and he smiled and replied “Of course," and as we enter the final six weeks of the season, Chelsea are still well placed to win both home and abroad.
Standing in Mourinho’s way to winning a third Champions League this week is Paris Saint-Germain's outrageously talented striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who boasts an ego to rival the Chelsea manager.
The Swede has used his extreme sense of self-belief to propel him to a career of almost unprecedented success.
Even at the outset of his career, he knew how good he was and wouldn’t make compromises. At 18, he was offered a trial at Arsenal by Arsene Wenger, but rejected the offer, and according to The Daily Telegraph said: “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.'”
After that, he never suffered from lack of suitors by becoming the most expensive player in history, with his moves to seven clubs costing in excess of £150 million.
But his career should never be judged on transfer fees alone. He has also amassed an incredible haul of medals, winning domestic titles at Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and now Paris Saint-Germain.
Having a keen sense of his own worth, he wasn’t prepared to lurk around at Barcelona when he felt he wasn’t being used properly. As reported in The Daily Telegraph, he told Pep Guardiola, “You bought a Ferrari, but you drive it like a Fiat."
He backed this up by going on to win titles at AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.
When he arrived in France in the summer of 2012, as reported by The Daily Mail he said, "I don’t know that much about the players here in Ligue 1… but they definitely know who I am."
Ibrahimovic knew he could playfully insult his new hosts because he had the ability to ultimately please them, and nine months later PSG were champions for the first time in 19 years.
His only slight misstep was last year after Sweden had failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals when he pronounced, according to The Guardian, “One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch.”
It was funny, and again it revealed the size of his ego, but it jarred because it simply wasn’t true. Maybe Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo could get away with saying that, but few agreed with him.
So who has the biggest ego between Ibrahimovic and Mourinho? It is a close-run battle, but the Chelsea manager just edges it.
The final word should be left to Ibrahimovic, who recently saluted his former manager’s ego and aura, when, according to The Daily Telegraph ,he said, “If [Jose] Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains.”
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