10 Little-Known Facts About Paris Saint-Germain Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Andrew Gibney@@gibney_aFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2014

10 Little-Known Facts About Paris Saint-Germain Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Just saying his name, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, evokes different memories for football fans across the world. The Swedish striker is one of the most charismatic, enigmatic and entertaining players ever to grace a football pitch.

    Ibrahimovic has played for teams in Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France. He has captured the imagination of fans for all the clubs he has played for, even some of the fans he has played against. It is safe to say that he is one of the most exciting players in the world, and someone that people want to know everything about.

    Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t remind you of a Zlatan moment. It could be a goal, a quote, a fact, just something about the 32-year-old that brings memories of joy. You may have heard or seen it before, but you don’t mind as this is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    Now an iconic figure of Paris Saint-Germain, he has all but perfected the Gaelic shrug, but it hasn’t stopped him conjuring up moments of brilliance and dazzling the Ligue 1 crowds. There is definitely more to come for the talismanic forward.

    Here are 10 little-known facts about PSG forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

10: Pitch That Ibrahimovic Grew Up Playing on Transformed by Nike

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Growing up in the Malmo district of Rosengard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic began playing football in a small pitch in the courtyard of the Cronmans vag, where he lived.

    In 2007, Nike decided to give it a face lift, transforming the old field into a modern five-a-side court. They used recycled athletic shoes for the pitch and also made sure it is illuminated when it is dark.

    On your way into the pitch the entrance has a special inscription: “Har finns mitt hjarta. Har finns min historia. Har finns mitt spel. Ta det vidare. Zlatan”

    In English “Here is my heart. Here is my story. Here is my play. Take it further. Zlatan.”

    You can also find an impression of Ibrahimovic’s footprint and his autograph, in a star-shaped impression in the ground.

    My son Hamza by the Zlatan court in Malmö just outside the very building Zlatan Ibrahimovic used to live in pic.twitter.com/Bnp74aR0dy

    — Haris Alisic (@HarisAlisic) November 2, 2013

9: Met Friend and Team-Mate Maxwell on First Day in Amsterdam

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    Francois Mori

    Nowadays the thought of Brazilian defender Maxwell and Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing in a different team seems somewhat odd. Best friends on and off the pitch, the two international players are now inseparable and it is something that began very early in their respective careers.

    Ibrahimovic had already agreed to move to Ajax from Malmo, but it was on his very first day in Amsterdam that he would meet 19-year-old Maxwell, and the two have been friends ever since.

    Young and foolish, Ibrahimovic wasn’t very careful with his money at first, and it was Maxwell that looked after him. The Brazilian let him stay in his Amsterdam apartment, they lived and cooked food together and the two bonded instantly.

    Both players were born in 1981, both now are in their 30s, they have played together at Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona and now at Paris Saint-Germain. Maxwell is the complete opposite of Zlatan, quiet, private and a player with no ego. He is perhaps the perfect complement to the Swedish forward. In his autobiography, Zlatan wrote:

    “Sometimes I'm surprised he's become so good. Nice guys like him usually don't make it in football,”

    PSG may be Zlatan’s last club, but if he moves, it will be very interesting to see if Maxwell follows him once again.

8: Famous Ajax Goal Had a Secret Meaning Behind It

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    Pretty much everyone that has spent time on YouTube watching football videos knows the goal. Ajax are playing against NAC Breda at the Amsterdam ArenA and the Swedish striker picks up the ball just outside the box, no one knew what would happen next.

    He jinks his way past four opposition defenders, beating some of them more than once, before slotting the ball into the net. It is an absolutely outlandish piece of individual skill, and will be shown on great-goal reels for years to come. However, there is an untold story to the goal.

    Just after the players celebrate, the camera cuts to Ajax midfielder, Rafael van der Vaart, sitting in the crowd, and he doesn’t look entirely pleased to see the Swede score the magnificent goal.

    Four days earlier, the Netherlands took on Sweden and moments before Ibrahimovic assisted a team-mate score for his country, he planted his foot on van der Vaart’s ankle, injuring the Dutchman, and started a feud that has lasted ever since.

    That is why the former Spurs midfielder doesn’t look entirely pleased when Ibrahimovic scores.

7: Ajax Tried to Send Ibrahimovic to Southampton

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    After joining Ajax from Malmo, Ibrahimovic didn’t enjoy the best of times in his first season. The then-Ajax coach, Co Adriaanse, didn’t play Ibra very often and the Swede struggled to find his feet in Amsterdam.

    In a 2013 interview with the BBC, the striker revealed that Southampton tried to take him on loan, and it was something that Ajax were interested in allowing.

    They wanted to take me from Ajax after I had a difficult first year. My manager said: 'You go to Southampton.' I said: 'Is that the only option I have?' I had confidence problems and I had a big ego also.

    At that time, I thought of Ajax as the top. I had to go somewhere even more at the top. In my mind, I felt that to go from Ajax to Southampton, with all respect to Southampton, I would be taking a step down.

    I had patience and continued to train hard. The second year was better, the third year was even better and then Juventus came. I thought 'now we're talking'.

    Ibrahimovic scored just six goals in his first season at Ajax. He made 24 appearances and that is the lowest amount he has ever scored when he has played at least 10 games for a club.

    Southampton finished 11th in the Premier League that year, who knows what could have happened if the Swedish forward had linked up with the likes of James Beattie, Kevin Davies and international team-mate Anders Svensson.

6: Sacrificing Himself for His Country

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    In 2002, Sweden took on Hungary in a crucial European Championship qualifier. Defeat for the home side would have meant failure to qualify for the tournament in Portugal.

    The away side took the lead in the first half and Sweden needed to find an equaliser or face elimination.

    The ball was played wide on the right to substitute Mattias Jonsson, the midfielder moved the ball onto his left foot and played a teasing ball into the box. Ibrahimovic was first to the ball and headed it into the net, but at the same time he had been caught by the fist of Hungarian ‘keeper Gabor Kiraly.

    Knocked to the ground unconscious, team-mate Kim Kallstrom was the first to try and revive the striker, screaming: “Get up, it went in!” The story goes that Zlatan then asked who scored, to which Kallstrom responded “You did!”

    The striker was then stretchered off the pitch to a standing ovation. He had sacrificed himself for his country and the home fans were quick to show their appreciation. Sweden would go on to qualify for Euro 2004 and Zlatan would score a wonderful back-heeled goal against Italy.

5: Zlatan and His Altercation with Jonathan Zebina

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    Thibault Camus

    Controversy has followed the Swedish striker wherever he has played, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic being the man that he is, he has never been one to shy away from it. He has been involved in several bust-ups with team-mates in the past, some, like the Rafael van der Vaart incident, have gone on to span years.

    His recent spat with Toulouse FC defender, Jonathan Zebina, actually started when he was back playing for Juventus. After suffering a bad tackle, he punched Zebina in the face. In his book he said that “Zebina went down immediately.”

    Earlier this season, in a match against Toulouse at the Parc des Princes, Ibrahimovic was being substituted when he made a gun gesture towards the away bench. It was aimed at Zebina, and Zlatan would have to answer to the French football authorities.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic escapes punishment for gun gesture directed at Jonathan Zebina http://t.co/8KorMh1k1q #Ligue1 pic.twitter.com/Mv1rqvV7Mx

    — ESPN.co.uk (@ESPNUK) October 25, 2013

    Zebina then spoke to french radio station RMC about the ongoing feud and he had a different version of events from the Juventus bust-up incident.

    "Maybe he needed publicity for his book. He sold lots of them, and that's good for him.

    "It's better to say 'I caught him with a good right and he fell to the ground' than 'my fingernail brushed his eye'."

    Zlatan didn’t receive any punishment for the gun gesture; perhaps it will be a chapter in his next book.

4. Zlatan Takes Embarrasment on the Chin

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    Michel Euler

    Not many players can say that they have nutmegged Zlatan Ibrahimovic. One player that can claim this unique moment is former Lille defender, Aurelien Chedjou, and for the Cameroonian defender it will be a moment he won’t forget.

    Lille were taking on PSG at the Parc de Princes, and with the game tied at 0-0 in the second half, the Parisians were struggling to break down the stubborn away side. Unthinkable as it is now, Lille were dominating possession against the Ligue 1 giants.

    Looking a frustrated and isolated figure upfront, Ibrahimovic tried to chase down the Lille defence, looking to force a mistake and create something for his team. Then it happened, the forward came rushing in and Chedjou, with the slightest of touches, nudged the ball in between Zlatan’s legs.

    What is even more brilliant about that moment is Zlatan’s reaction. A beaming wide smile appears on his face, he knows he has been done, but there is complete respect for what Chedjou has accomplished. He dared to Zlatan, and he won, well sort of.

    The game would finish 1-0 to PSG, their goal coming through a Chedjou own goal. Proof that you shouldn't mess with Zlatan.

3: Equalling Jean-Pierre Papin's Goalscoring Record

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    So much was expected of Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he first joined Paris Saint-Germain, and there is little doubt the Swede has delivered. In his first season, PSG won their first league title since 1994, and they also pushed Barcelona close in the Champions League.

    On a personal note, one of his biggest achievements during his first season was to equal the goal tally set by legendary Marseille forward, Jean-Pierre Papin, ending the season with 30 league goals.

    Papin scored 30 goals in 1990 and no one in French football has managed to match it since. Papin himself predicted that Ibrahimovic would beat that target, but in the end Zlatan would finish level. This season it looked like the Swedish striker was all set to surpass Papin, but an injury against Chelsea in the Champions League has forced him to miss subsequent games and has left him on 25 league goals with three games to go.

    He may get a chance to play again this season, but he will find it tough to score another six goals, even for Zlatan.

    Now he can rest and prepare himself for the new season and maybe look at breaking the all-time record of 44 goals—set by another Marseille legend, Josip Skoblar, back in 1970.

2: Double on His Parisian Debut Is Dream Start

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    At the start of the 2012/13 season, the stage was all set for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s triumphant debut in Ligue 1. Lowly FC Lorient arrived at the Parc de Princes, ready to face the superstars of Paris, with everyone expecting them to be steamrolled by Carlo Ancelotti’s side. Lorient had not read the script.

    By the end of the first half, Lorient were beating the Parisians 2-0. This was not the debut that Zlatan had imagined, so the Swedish striker took control and made it all about Zlatan. In no uncertain terms was he willing to be upstaged by Jeremie Aliadiere.

    The comeback started on the 64th minute. Collecting a lovely over-the-top ball on his chest, he then managed to get enough on the shot to squeeze it past Fabian Audard in the Lorient net. Then in the 90th minute, Blaise Matuidi was adjudged to have been fouled in the box. This was Zlatan’s chance.

    Audard went the right way, but the penalty from Zlatan was too good. The game finished 2-2 and Ibrahimovic had saved PSG’s blushes. It wouldn’t be the last time, but his performance was a statement from the Swede, this was now his team.

1. It's Going to Be a Long Summer for Zlatan

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    Lionel Cironneau

    One of the saddest facts about this summer’s World Cup in Brazil is that Sweden will not be representing Europe. Losing out to Portugal in the play-offs means not only will the tournament be without the colourful and passionate Swedish fans, but it will also be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    To make things worse for the Swedish striker, a large number of his team-mates will be heading off to Brazil once the season ends.

    When you look at the Paris Saint-Germain first-team squad on their official website, all of the players listed are made up of seven different nationalities: French, Brazilian, Argentinian, Uruguayan, Italian, Dutch and Swedish.

    Only one of those nations will not be represented at the 2014 World Cup. Sweden.

    That means that Zlatan will have to endure his team-mates either going to participate in Brazil, or cheering on their fellow countrymen.

    It is going to be a long summer for Zlatan.