FC Internazionale Milano and Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimović was named Sweden's player of the year for an unprecedented third time on Monday at the country's annual football awards ceremony at Stockholm's Globe Arena.
Ibrahimović was selected by a jury including Swedish Football Association president Lars-Åke Lagrell and Sportbladet columnist Simon Bank who jointly presented the 27-year-old with the coveted Guldbollen. "I don't think I've realised how big this is yet, but I hope to be back next year to receive another one," said Ibrahimović who also won the award in 2005 and 2007 and is the first person to do so more than twice.
Ibra, as he is known in Italy, played an influential part in Inter reclaiming the Scudetto, notably coming off the bench following a lengthy absence with a knee injury to score both Nerazzurri goals in their final match, a 2-0 win at Parma FC which secured the title. He scored 17 times in 26 league appearances for Inter before adding two more at UEFA EURO 2008™, despite being hampered by the same injury. His instinctive strike from the edge of the area that broke the deadlock against defending champions Greece was particularly memorable.
Ibrahimović, who has scored 20 times in 56 appearances for Sweden, also collected an honorary award voted for by the Swedish public, presented this time by guest of honour Pelé. "It was the first time I've met him," Ibrahimović said. "Everyone wants to be like him, but no one can." Earlier in the day Pelé had met with members of the Sweden side he had played against for Brazil in the 1958 FIFA World Cup final and he rounded off his trip to Stockholm by giving Ibrahimović a hug and declaring: "I wish you all the luck I had in football. God bless you."
Sweden's female player of the year award went to Frida Östberg, who recently retired after helping Umeå IK win the Damallsvenskan, while 17-year-old IFK Göteborg striker Robin Söder was named best male newcomer and 23-year-old Linköpings FC forward Jessica Landström won the women's "Breakthrough of the Year" award.
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