Zlatan Ibrahimovic: I can see myself conquering the US

ENGLISH VERSION: Zlatan in an exclusive interview

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MANCHESTER. It all started back in 2005, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was named best player in Sweden for the first time. Today he receives his 11th Guldboll, the prize presented by Aftonbladet and the Swedish FA, at a ceremony in Stockholm.

In an exclusive interview he looks back at the ups and downs of his career, his present spell with Manchester United and what his future might bring overseas.

– The team I signed for this summer is not as strong as the one I left, but when Mourinho called my decision was easy, Ibrahimovic says.

Manchester United started off the season in a Premier League winning fashion, but mid September José Mourinho’s side started to struggle, with three defeats in a row.

– I said from the start that we are underdogs, we’re not favourites to win the title this season. With all the new signings this summer (along with Ibrahimovic came Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan) people were getting all excited, but it has been four or five years that the club has not won the league or been in the top of the table. That is something we work on, Ibrahimovic says.

– We started off well with a few wins in a row. Then we started losing, and we lost playing badly, by several goals. We had a week when we lost three games, that has never happened to me in fifteen years. There were a few games where I didn’t score and missed too many chances, but these things happen. As long as I’m there and create the chances and get the ball the goals will come.

”The team I signed for this summer is not as strong as the one I left”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic acknowledges that José Mourinho appointed new manager was decisive for his joining the club this summer.

– Very much so. The team I signed for this summer is not as strong as the one I left (Paris Saint-Germain), but when Mourinho called the decision was easy. When he calls I have no problem coming, all we had to decide was when I was to be presented as Man U player. The rest, the financial deal, was not the difficult part.

– It was about the challenge really, and I will never say no to a challenge. This is what I wanted; coming to one of the world’s biggest clubs, that has had troubles and not won much of late, and try the Premier League. That is the challenge.

Being asked whether he sees himself in the Premier League next season, Zlatan is somewhat vague.

– If I want to. We’ll see. It’s not only about football, it’s about all the rest as well. How do I feel? How do I feel physically? Mentally? But that’s no problem really, I can handle that easily. I felt more pressure in PSG.

In the last couple of years rumors have constantly placed Ibrahimovic overseas at the end of his career. And adding a season or two of ’soccer’ to his curriculum is as tempting as ever, Zlatan says.

– It’s a huge option for me. For the football and everything else. I can see myself conquering the US as I have with Europe. Lots of people stay in one place throughout their career, but I’ve traveled around like Napoleon, and conquered every new country where I’ve sat foot. So perhaps I should do what Napoleon didn’t and cross the Atlantic and conquer the States as well.

”I believe in what we do”

With a disappointing display in France this summer, where Sweden was eliminated from the European Championship at the group stage, Zlatan decided to say farewell to his national duties in order to focus fully on Manchester United.

– The Euro 2016 was a disappointment of course, but at the same time we were not favourites to win the competition. One has to be realistic. We did our best, he says.

More than fifteen years in the limelight has seen Zlatan Ibrahimovic succeed more than any Swedish player in history, but controversy has always accompanied his performances. Zlatan considers media playing a great part in creating his public persona, but argues that his background – he is the son of Balkan immigrants – has also played a part.

– People essentially have got the picture of me as ’cocky’ and ’arrogant’ because that is what newspapers wrote in the beginning. Then, there is also a fair deal of ’latent racism’, because my name is Ibrahimovic and not Svensson or Andersson. I was something completely different. And then there is, of course, envy. Lots of people never wanted med to make it because of who I was, how I spoke and acted. But all of that triggers me, it has given me a lot of energy and motivation throughout the years. It has been an advantage, really.

Asking Zlatan whether Manchester United is still a title contender – the interview took place before the draw against Arsenal this weekend where Ibrahimovic was suspended – he says:

– I hope so, I believe in what we do. I know the capacity of this team, but it’s still a long way to go. With a bit of luck we should be able to do it.

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