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Ibrahimovic: the galactico that got away

Ibrahimovic: the galactico that got away

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the one star player that Florentino Perez had no chance to turn into a galactico.
The Sweden striker, who is preparing for his Spanish league debut on Monday, told The Associated Press in an interview that Barcelona was the only club that could have pried him away from Italy.
"I had an agreement with my president at Inter that whoever came, whatever team came I want him to reject," the 27-year-old Ibrahimovic said from Barcelona's Joan Gamper training facility. "(But) I said if Barcelona comes, then you at least discuss."
Barcelona came, and swooped in with ⁈lion ($93.5 million) and Samuel Eto'o for the Serie A's top scorer, who was coming off a second straight league title.
Joining Barcelona, which earned a historic treble last season, was part preference, part career move.
"It's the club that can make me a better football player than I am today," the 27-year-old Ibrahimovic said from Barcelona's Joan Gamper training facility. "I want to be part of this project and history that Barcelona is making now."
Ibrahimovic will replace Eto'o, who helped lead the Catalan club to eight major trophies, including two Champions League titles. The Cameroon striker scored in both European Cup finals.
Ibrahimovic refuses to get drawn into a comparison with Eto'o _ "I'm a totally different player. I have totally different qualities, a different kind of style" _ and prefers to let his record speak for itself.
"Wherever I went I won. I let my results talk for me," said Ibrahimovic, who won three Serie A titles and two Italian Supercups in four seasons in Italy. Prior to that, he helped Ajax to two league titles.
He said he wasn't concerned by high expectations and the pressure of playing for the European champion.
"Of course there is pressure. You play for Barcelona. I had a lot of pressure also on me when I went to Inter, when I went to Juventus I also had a lot of pressure, wherever you go in top football you will have pressure," said Ibrahimovic. "There should be pressure. If there is no pressure it's not a challenge."
He was once described by the Italian press as "half ballerina, half gangster" because of his delicate touch and rough-and-tumble looks, with tattoos adorning most of his body.
Linking up with Lionel Messi to become one of the league's most fearsome duos is likely to be the easiest challenge and Ibrahimovic says he's already seen flashes of the partnership's potential, as has the Argentina forward.
"I can tell he's a great person from the little we've been together," Messi said.
Ibrahimovic set up Messi for the first of two goals on Sunday as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao to claim the Spanish Supercup _ the first of a possible six trophies. The next chance to see how the partnership is developing comes Friday against Shakhtar Donetsk in the European Supercup.
"We are two players who like to create situations for each other. It is not difficult to play with a player like Messi," said the Malmo native, born to a Croatian mother and Bosnian father, who uses a mix of Italian and Spanish to communicate with his strike partner.
"With Leo I speak pretty good, pretty much football language. We understand each other," said Ibrahimovic, who already speaks four languages and who is learning Catalan and Spanish. "It's no problem at all."
Ibrahimovic, who signed a five-year deal with Barcelona, is glad to slowly ease back from hand surgery and into Barcelona's attacking style of play that has made it the most attractive team in world football and brought it international acclaim.
Ibrahimovic is confident that under coach Pep Guardiola, whom he sees sharing many of the same characteristics as former coaches Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho, he can get even better.
"I believe I can use my qualities a lot more here than I did in Italy because it's totally different football in Italy," said Ibrahimovic, who offers Barcelona a stronger aerial presence up front with his 1.95-meter (6-foot-4) frame.
He's not worried about big-spending Real Madrid either, despite the club having spent a quarter of a billion Euros ($360 million) to recruit the likes of world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.
"Real Madrid is a top club, they need to win. So what they do (is) they buy players to win," Ibrahimovic said. "But I'm coming already to a winning team so I think the advantage is with Barcelona. They (Madrid) have a lot of pressure. Everybody's waiting for the results."


Updated : 2021-06-21 08:54 GMT+08:00