Zlatan Ibrahimović at the Euro 2012 match against France (Image via Wikimedia Commons 3.0)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 40. Even though that is dotage in his line of work, the Swedish football star retains his legendary self-belief.
He is at AC Milan now, where the squad is young, the youngest in the Champions League, in fact. Being with his 20-something teammates, pushing himself hard in training with them keeps Ibrahimovic sharp too.
“It’s incredible. They make me look young. It has this effect, like Benjamin Button. After six months here you will have dark hair, trust me,” the ever quotable Zlatan Ibrahimovic said in an interview with The Guardian published on November 22.
He suffers after training, but he is also high on adrenaline. To Ibrahimovic, that is happiness.
“It’s not about contracts or being famous. I don’t need that. The only thing that keeps me going is the adrenaline because every morning I have pain everywhere. But getting two more followers will not heal you. Getting more money will not heal you. Getting attention will not heal you. What will heal you is adrenaline,” he said.
He took a dig at the ways of life today, where he feels praise comes too easily.
“I don’t have problems suffering,” Ibrahimovic said. “For me, to suffer is like breakfast. But many people don’t understand suffering because the new generation, with all these platforms, have to do little to get credit. The generation before that you had to do a lot to get a little. I’m very proud I came from the old generation.”
He spoke about the often exaggerated projection of happiness online by people. Perfection to him isn’t a flattering picture of yourself but in being who you really are.
“Life is up and down,” Ibrahimovic said. “If everything was perfect, we have nothing to talk about. We still do mistakes. Nobody is perfect. On digital platforms you put out a picture with 20 filters and you look perfect. But when I see you in reality you’re not perfect. You look normal like everybody else. People pretend they are perfect. I say: ‘I am perfect when I’m myself.’ It doesn’t mean I will not do mistakes. But I learn from them.”
At Milan, the young are different. They indeed work hard.
“I’m very proud because I see these young players taking more responsibility, the mentality changing. That is my happiness now. That is my adrenaline. I go out and run as much as them,” said Ibrahimovic.
One of his teammates is 20-year-old Daniel Maldini, whose father Paolo was his contemporary.
“One is Mr Nice Guy [Paolo, presumably]. The other one, if he wants to kill you, he will kill you,” Ibrahimovic said of Maldini Sr and Jr. “I’m happy they’re not the same because it’s not easy for the son to be compared with the father, especially when the father has the career he had. We are helping the son in every way. He’s a big talent, but I tell him: ‘Just play your game, fight, then you will lead the way yourself.’ I’m happy. I played against the father and today I’m playing with the son. Maybe [Daniel] will have a son …”
The Miracle of Zlatan would be complete if he plays with Daniel’s son, The Guardian remarked.
“It’s already a miracle,” Ibrahimovic said with a smile.