Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not been shy of being involved in a controversy. The mercurial forward, who is currently without a club after not signing a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain, is widely expected to sign a contract with Manchester United.
New boss Jose Mourinho is a keen admirer of the Swede, a feeling that is reciprocated by Ibrahimovic for Mourinho as well. The former Barcelona striker has been excellent for Paris Saint-Germain as he scored 156 goals in 180 games for them in just four seasons.
He has been incredibly prolific in front of goal. The Swedish international even managed to score 51 goals in just 50 games in his final season with the Paris club, showing he’s still got in him.
Over the years, Ibrahimovic has been involved in several controversies ranging from violence on and off the pitch to passing snide comments.
Below are 10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic controversies that certainly shocked the world:
1) Threatened to break Rafael van der Vaart’s legs
In 2004, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael van der Vaart were teammates at the Dutch club Ajax, where the latter was captain. The two faced each other in a friendly when Netherlands played Sweden. Things were not exactly great between them and things went south after Ibrahimovic tackled the Dutchman so hard that he tore his ankle ligament.
He had to be stretchered off the pitch as Sweden went on to score from the resulting move. But Van der Vaart was convinced that the tackle was a deliberate one and he took to the media to let the world know, to which Zlatan did not respond very nicely.
Zlatan even tried to phone him and tell him that he was sorry for the tackle, but the Dutchman was adamant in his belief. The pair were called by then Ajax coach Ronald Koeman, who made them sit together.
Van der Vaart said that Zlatan did it on purpose to which the Swede replied by saying “I didn’t injure you on purpose, and you know that. If you accuse me again I’ll break both your legs, and that time it will be on purpose.”
2) Punched his teammate Mido at Ajax
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was friends with Egyptian striker Mido at Ajax. After one match, the Egyptian was benched in a match, to which he did not take very well. He entered the dressing room in great anger and declared publicly that he was done with the club and wanted to be transferred.
He called the whole team miserable c***s. Ibrahimovic responded by saying that he was the c**t. There was animosity between the pair and the Egyptian striker flung a pair of scissors at Ibrahimovic, that flew just past his head, where it hit the concrete wall and made a crack in it.
Zlatan was so angry that he went on to punch Mido to bring him back to his senses.
3) Bans for violence on the pitch
Ibrahimovic has been known for his physicality on the pitch. The physicality sometimes borders on the line of violence, sometimes even crossing it. While playing for AC Milan in 2011 in a match against Bari, the big Swede was cautioned for a deliberate handball early in the match.
But the then AC Milan man was not done as he punched defender Marco Rossi, which resulted in a straight red card that banned him for three games.
The striker was also involved in another incident when Milan faced Napoli in a league encounter. When defender Salvatore Aronica was appealing for a foul, Ibrahimovic calmly walked up to him and swung his arm and slapped him right across his face. He was given another three-match ban.
Ibrahimovic after going to PSG was involved in more violent acts as when the Paris side were playing a Ligue 1 tie against Saint-Etienne, Zlatan kung-fu kicked onrushing goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier in the chest as he tried to control the ball. He was subsequently handed a two-match ban for this incident.
4) Stamping opposition players
While playing for PSG in a Champions League game against Valencia, the big Swede stamped winger Andres Guardado’s foot after in a reckless tackle near the corner flag possibly due to frustrations after conceding a goal, for which UEFA handed him a two-match ban.
In another such incident, when PSG faced Lyon in Ligue 1, Ibrahimovic was seen stamping Lyon defender Dejan Lovren as the striker clashed with the defender. Ibrahimovic then jumped and landed on Lovren’s face and then stamping his hand.
5) Training ground fistfight with teammate Oguchi Onyewu
Zlatan was involved in a training ground fistfight with American defender Oguchi Onyewu after the Swede purposely went for a two-footed lunge on the defender from behind. This happened because the American had accused Ibrahimovic of trash talking, which the striker denied.
The American defender made the mistake of shushing the Swedish international, which fueled Zlatan's rage that made him tackle the defender from behind.
Although he missed, Oguchi was having none of it, so he punched the striker from behind. The striker replied by head-butting the defender and they fought furiously going after each other limb for limb.
They had to be separated by their teammates before things would get messier and Ibrahimovic suffered a broken rib in the quarrel. Talking about the incident, he said: “Onyewu resembled a heavyweight boxer. He was nearly 6ft 5in and weighed over 15 stone, but he couldn’t handle me”
6) Publicly screaming at PSG Sporting Director Leonardo
Zlatan is known to have anger issues and it was evident when the PSG striker apparently lost his cool during PSG’s post-match celebrations after he was being forced to undergo a dope test rather than celebrate the title victory with his teammates.
It was confirmed by then manager Carlo Ancelotti who in his post-match conference said that he was angry with the Sporting Director Leonardo that he had to be present for a doping test rather than celebrate.
The Swedish international also went on to say that he must exit the club. In a video, he was heard saying, “You left me there alone; they closed me there for twenty minutes; yes, I could not leave, you always ruin everything, I was alone, alone.” After the incident, the former Brazilian manager resigned from his post as sporting director and left the French club.
7) Told Wenger he doesn’t do auditions while playing for Malmo FF
Zlatan even as a youngster had the audacity to refuse to give trials to prove his skills. He was approached by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is known for having a keen eye for young talents and converting them into stars.
So naturally, Zlatan was approached and was on the verge of signing for Arsenal, but upon being asked to give a trial, the Swede said: “Arsene Wenger asked me to have trial with Arsenal when I was 17. I turned it down. Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.”
These were the words of an unproven 17-year-old striker who played in a Swedish league. He then sealed a deal with Ajax and the rest is history.
8) Calls France a “s**t country” and condemns the referees
Zlatan found himself in hot water after he sparked a political row after he attacked a referee and called France a “s**t country.” He was heard shouting “Wake up, wake up, we’re not amateurs. F***ing a*****e.
“I’ve never seen this in my 15 years playing football. I’ve been playing for 15 years and I’ve never seen [good] refereeing in this s**t country. They don’t even deserve PSG in this country.” It enraged a lot of politicians as Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right Front National went as far to say that he is free to leave the country if he wants.
The striker’s outbursts also made French sports minister Patrick Kanner to come out and tweet: “Ibrahimovic’s disappointment doesn’t justify his insults towards the referee and the country that has welcomed him. He should apologise.”
Such a response from the French people made Ibrahimovic apologise and he later said that he was talking about referee Lionel Jaffredo and not France. He wrote: “I spoke about football. I lost the game, I accept that, but I can’t accept when the referee doesn’t follow the rules. It’s not the first time and I’m sick of it. My sincere apologies if anyone was offended, or took it the wrong way.” He was subsequently banned for four league games by Ligue 1.
9) Incident with Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was Barcelona’s most expensive signing at that time, as he signed for £59 million in exchange for Samuel Eto’o. He had the perfect start to his La Liga career as he scored 5 times in the first five games of the league, setting a record.
But things became ugly after he had a bad falling out with then Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. They did not speak for months and things got so ugly that one fine evening in the dressing room, Zlatan threw a training-kit box across the room and furiously abused and insulted Guardiola.
That proved to be the final nail in the coffin. Barcelona Vice President Carles Vilarrubi said that the striker had threatened to beat Guardiola publicly if he was not allowed to go to Milan. To this day, Zlatan still holds a grudge against his former coach, and the pair have never repaired their damaged relationship.
10) Passing sexist comments about Swedish women’s national football team
Ibrahimovic had found himself in hot water when he said that he believes men’s football and women’s football cannot be compared and that a reward should be given in terms of the finance they generate.
He said this after Anders Svensson was rewarded with a new Volvo for breaking the record for the most international caps, although when Therese Sjogran earned 187 caps for her country, the same wasn’t given to her.
He said: "With all respect for what the ladies have done, and they've done it fantastically well, you can't compare men's and women's football. Give it up, it's not even funny." He went on to say: "When I come out in Europe they compare me to Messi and Ronaldo. When I come home they compare me to a female player. With all respect for the ladies, they should be rewarded in relation to what they generate.
He further added: "I was asked in the summer who was the better player, me or [Sweden women’s striker] Lotta Schelin. You're joking with me, right? When I've broken all these records, this goal record, the goals in the national team, who shall I compare it to? Shall I compare it to whoever has the record, or the ladies?”
The striker also said: "Pay tribute to him instead for this record as he is one of the few players who has reached this level. It is better to stay on that line instead of devaluing him by comparing him with the ladies' individual achievements. They can get a bike with my autograph and then we are good."
His comments were received negatively as the ladies’ coach Pia Sundhage said that his comments were boring and sad. Sjorgan also joined her and said: "On one occasion he said we were fantastic and then he thinks that we should have a bike. I don't know what he is angry about really, if it is the association or the media,"