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Player profile

Position

9

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Striker

Goals rank

19Zlatan Ibrahimovic

7Paul Pogba

0David De Gea

0Joel Castro Pereira

0Axel Tuanzebe

Appearances rank

126David De Gea

31Zlatan Ibrahimovic

30Paul Pogba

3Timothy Fosu-Mensah

1Joel Castro Pereira

Discipline

Yellow cards: 6

Fouls Won: 28

Red cards: 0

Fouls Conceded: 52

profile

A strong willed and extravagantly skilled striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the most charismatic personalities in the football world.

Raised by Bosnian and Croatian parents, he achieved national idol status in Sweden after being born in Malmo and emerging as one of the country’s most popular sportsmen of all time. He has been voted the Swedish Footballer of the Year for nine seasons in a row.

Success seems to come naturally to the experienced centre-forward, who showcased his potential with hometown club Malmo before joining Ajax in 2001 and accumulating silverware at an astonishing rate. He had turned down a trial at Arsenal to link up with the Amsterdam giants and once Ronald Koeman took charge, Ibrahimovic became a key part of the side that lifted the Eredivisie title in 2002.

A year later, he achieved a goal every other game (21 in 42) but PSV Eindhoven won the league by a point. In retrospect, the classy hitman may have appreciated the space in his medal cabinet as Ajax secured the title in the following campaign, his last full term in the Netherlands. By moving to Juventus in 2004, he was able to step up a level and crack Serie A – a division notoriously difficult for goalscorers to notch impressive statistics.

A return of 16 strikes in 35 league games was a fine one as he earned another title winners’ medal and Juve repeated the feat in 2005/06, even if both championships were later revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal that engulfed the club. The Bianconeri’s relegation, as punishment for the wrongdoings, facilitated a move and Ibra switched to Inter Milan, where he spearheaded the new dominant force in the Italian game.

Three successive Scudetti were collected as Inter swept all before them and Jose Mourinho replaced Roberto Mancini at the helm to steer the team to a 10-point triumph in his first season there, 2008/09. Ibrahimovic responded magnificently to Mourinho’s promptings, earning the Serie A Player of the Year and top scorer awards, and was dominating defences with his unique mix of power and poise. Perhaps sated by his achievements in Italy, he accepted a fresh challenge with Barcelona in a July 2009 deal that took Samuel Eto’o to Inter in part exchange.

Despite being granted a hero’s welcome at Camp Nou by the supporters, and scoring in his first five games, it was not a wholly enjoyable experience for Zlatan in the Catalan capital. The trophies kept coming – La Liga, the Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and two Spanish Super Cups – but his relationship with manager Pep Guardiola soured.

A transfer back to Italy was agreed, initially on loan, as he signed for Inter’s big city rivals AC Milan in August 2010. Scoring 14 goals in 29 Serie A games, he led another successful assault on the title as Massimiliano Allegri’s men pipped their neighbours and ended a run of five successive Inter victories in the division.

Juventus may have won the 2011/12 Scudetto but Zlatan’s personal contribution to Milan’s season was immense. He top scored in Italy’s top flight with 28 goals, four more than his closest rival (Inter’s Diego Milito) but was unable to continue his incredible run of league victories. Perhaps slighted by this rare team failure, he was on the move again, joining Paris-Saint Germain in July 2012 and becoming the world’s most-expensive footballer in terms of combined transfer fees.

It all seemed to come so easily for the striker in France as he bagged 30 goals in 34 Ligue 1 games to finish top scorer, with the championship clinched by 12 points ahead of second-placed Marseille. In 2013/14, he smashed 10 goals in eight Champions League ties, including the quickest hat-trick in the history of the competition in a win over Anderlecht, and top scored in yet another league win.

The following season, he proved age was having no detrimental effect on his performances as he inspired the capital club to the Treble and, last term, he hit an incredible 38 goals in 31 Ligue 1 games, including a run of netting in nine consecutive outings, as PSG broke all manner of records on their way to a second successive Treble.

For Sweden, he was always the main main as a record of 62 strikes in 116 caps testifies. His 11-goal haul in the Euro 2016 qualifiers was bettered only by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski and he enjoyed some wonderful highlights in the yellow shirt, including a four-goal show against England that featured the Puskas award-winning Goal of the Season, a stupendous long-range overhead kick past Manchester City’s Joe Hart. He announced his retirement from international football following his country’s Euro 2016 exit.

A firebrand forward with flair and a desire to be centre stage, one of the most decorated individuals in the game is clearly a winner in every sense of the word. There may have been clashes with team-mates, coaches, rivals and referees over the years but his talent has never been in question. It is not difficult to see why so many pundits compare him to United legend Eric Cantona.

After 156 goals in 180 games, he decided to call time on his stay in Paris and set his heart on a move to England. When United, and former mentor Mourinho came calling, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Prepare for fireworks…

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