Swede dreams are possible with Zlatan around

SWEDEN'S GREATEST: With his 35th birthday around the corner, Euro 2016 might be Ibrahimovic's last shot at a major tournament.


    May 25, 2016

    Swede dreams are possible with Zlatan around


    ZLATAN Ibrahimovic has one of the hottest shots in football and he is not at all modest about it.

    "One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch," said the Swedish superstar after his country failed to qualify for Brazil 2014. So it is just as well he has made it to Euro 2016.

    Ibrahimovic scored three goals in the two-leg play-off against Denmark that Sweden won 4-3 on aggregate to reach France.

    The 34-year-old Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) player makes the difference for an otherwise mediocre Sweden team. "It's a challenge - a world-class player and good players, but not as good as him - to get a good team," said Sweden's coach Erik Hamren.

    Ibrahimovic is not just Sweden's captain and best player now but is also possibly the country's greatest ever, their all-time record goal-scorer with 62 and a record 10-time winner of the national Guldbollen award for player of the year.

    Born in a difficult neighbourhood of Malmo to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, he has enjoyed a glittering career.

    He has just won his 11th league title, a fourth straight French championship with PSG following two titles at Ajax, three at Inter Milan, one at Barcelona and one at AC Milan.

    There were also two with Juventus that were revoked because of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

    The biggest gap in his CV is his lack of success in the Champions League.

    At international level, he does not represent one of the major powers, and with his 35th birthday approaching, this may be his last chance at a major tournament.

    He is a superstar in France and has his own puppet on the cult satirical programme Les Guignols.

    However, he has never mastered the language and has an uneasy relationship with the French media.

    Some who have spent time in his company talk of an intelligent person who despises losing, and whose demanding nature has been the biggest factor in transforming PSG.

    He has suggested the club did not even exist before his arrival in 2012.

    Ibrahimovic once refused a trial at Arsenal as a teenager, later explaining himself by saying "Zlatan doesn't do auditions".

    He has never made it to the English game but that could still change.

    His PSG deal - worth a reported 20 million euros (S$30.9 million) a year - expires at the end of the season and media reports say Manchester United are interested.

    He has enjoyed a superb season with PSG, breaking the 40-goal barrier, and recently joked that he would stay if the Eiffel Tower were replaced with a statue of him.

    For now, though, his French swansong looks like it will come in the colours of Sweden.