Zlatan Ibrahimović visits Ferrari: AC Milan striker on growing up, his idols, the UEFA Champions League and staying on form at AC Milan
Friday, 25 March 2022
The AC Milan striker speaks to UEFA.com after a spin around the track at Ferrari's Maranello headquarters with Formula One drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Article top media content
"My passion for cars is no secret," Zlatan Ibrahimović told UEFA.com as he took a spin around the track at Ferrari's Maranello headquarters with Formula One drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. "I don’t have cars because I need to show everybody that I have cars." Sainz, incidentally, is a football fan too, telling Zlatan: "Champions League: I try to watch every match."
Sweden's all-time top international goalscorer, Ibrahimović has won domestic titles in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France, and was a member of the Manchester United side that won the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League. Here, the 40-year-old reflects on how his upbringing in the Malmö suburb of Rosengård set him on the path to success, and how he feels he still has plenty left in the tank in terms of his playing career.
On growing up in Rosengård
I grew up in Malmö, in a little area called Rosengård. I was there until I was 17. I was very active when I was young. People call it "ghetto". For me it was paradise because I had everything I wanted. I had friends. I had fun. I was happy. We had a football and football makes people happy. Football was cheap, it was free. I just needed to get some shoes. Even without shoes you could play football. Then from there, everything became better and better.
When I got my first contract [with Malmö FF], suddenly I earned money by doing what I love. Money didn't make me happy, but it became easier. So from walking long distances to training, from stealing bikes, which is not OK but we all do stupid things, I could get a driving licence, I could get a car.
Born: 3 October 1981, Malmö, Sweden
International appearances/goals: 120/62
UEFA club competition appearances/goals: 150/57
UEFA Champions League appearances/goals: 124/48
On his childhood role models
My father made me watch a lot of Muhammad Ali, and I like that kind of character. You talk, but you perform; you talk, but you prove [yourself]. You don't talk because you think you're somebody; you talk because you're confident.
[In terms of footballers,] for me, the best player [in] history is Ronaldo "O Fenômeno". I followed him; I looked up to him. He did things that everybody wanted to do; he did things that you hadn't seen before, and everybody tried to copy that. So when we came into the garden to play with friends, we tried to do the same things. Then I get to meet this person in real [life] and then I get to play against him – I didn't play with him – and, suddenly, something unreal gets real.
On not forgetting where he came from
Whatever happens to me – success, money, fame, whatever – I will still be the same person. I will not change. Either you like me or you don't like me, but I was not born into this world to convince people to like me.
On playing in the UEFA Champions League in his 40s
I play with a lot of emotion for Milan because it's a club that gave me happiness, it gave me a lot of things, and I think I've spent [the] most years at Milan [out of] all the clubs I've represented. It was nice [to return to the UEFA Champions League with the club this season]. After a couple of years struggling and not being in the Champions League, everybody was super excited and super happy to be back.
I think it's an amazing tournament. I scored a couple of goals that I enjoyed, and I got the opportunity to play against the best teams and players in Europe. How do I feel about the fact that I never won it? In two ways. To win it would be amazing. To not win it would not change me as a player. If I win it, it doesn't mean that I'd be a better player because I am the best player. This has been proven; the best player doesn't win everything.
What trophies has Zlatan won?
1 UEFA Europa League (Manchester United 2016/17*)
1 UEFA Super Cup (Barcelona 2009)
1 FIFA Club World Cup (Barcelona 2009)
11 league titles (Ajax 2001/02, 2003/04; Inter 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09; Barcelona 2009/10; AC Milan 2010/11; Paris 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16)
3 domestic cups (Ajax 2001/02; Paris 2014/15, 2015/16)
*missed the final through injury
On the future
The future is yet to be written. I don't plan. Let's see what happens. I don't want to regret stopping football and then saying that I could continue to play football because then I'd regret it for the rest of my life, seeing that I could have continued. I want to play as long as I can. The reality is I'll play until I see that someone is better than me, so I'm still playing.
I know one day it will stop, and I won't have that adrenaline anymore. This is a problem for every football player because you have adrenaline when you play football. That adrenaline, you will never get in doing something else because we are programmed. Every day we do the same thing.
We wake up, we prepare, we train, we eat, and we rest. The next day, it's the same thing. For 20 years, you do these things, and you get adrenaline from them. So when suddenly you stop, you don't have this agenda, you don't get the adrenaline anymore. And when it stops, you have to take it from there and begin from zero and start something new.
On his advice for young players
I think the standard thing, when they say, "What advice would you give a kid?" [is] "Believe in yourself, be happy, never give up," all these things. It's easy to say these things, but to go through it is the most difficult part. Surrounding yourself with positive people, positive energy, helps a lot because it transforms [things] into an atmosphere that makes things easier. When you have negative people around you, they drag you down. It's like they don't want you to succeed. So my advice would be "It is easy, and everything is possible – but it depends on you."