In an interview with Corriere della Sera, former Paris Saint-Germain and now-Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimović discussed a range of topics, including his nationality, faith and this year’s Ballon d’Or winner.
Speaking in the lead-up to the release of his new book, the Swede notably commented on the reaction to his lambasting of France as a “sh*t country” on one occasion during his time in Paris.
Do you feel Swedish?
I am Swedish, but I’m also a mix. My mother is Croatian and Catholic, my father a Bosniak and Muslim, and I’ve spent the majority of my career in Italy.
Do you believe in God?
No. I only believe in myself.
Not even in the afterlife?
No. This is life. When you’re dead, you’re dead. I’m not even sure I want a funeral or a tomb, a place that would make those who loved me suffer.
Are you superstitious?
No. I don’t like it when people say “good luck”. I don’t need it. I decide how things go.
What is your first memory?
Yugoslavia. I was taken there by car, by train. Communism was still around. It was another world.
How did you experience the war in Yugoslavia?
My father suffered a lot from it. Everyday there would be news that someone there he knew had died. He was helping refugees. But he was trying to shelter me from it. He always tried to protect me. When his sister died, in Sweden, he wouldn’t let me go to the morgue. But when my brother Sapko died, of leukemia, I was there. And my brother waited for me, he stopped breathing in front of me. We buried him according to the Muslim rite. My father didn’t shed a tear. The day after he went to the cemetery and cried from morning to evening, alone.
Messi or Ronaldo?
Both are very good. I’ll say Messi because we played together.
What relationship do you have with Messi?
A professional one. Leo lives for football. But Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d’Or this year.
Is it true that you advised Kylian Mbappé to leave PSG?
It’s true. Mbappé needs a more structured environment, like that of Real Madrid. But then I told the PSG president not to sell him.
You once said that France was a sh*t country
Marine Le Pen had asked for me to be deported. The day after I was worried about the reaction on the streets. Instead, French people went up to me to congratulate me: “You’re right Ibra, France really is a sh*t country.”
Is there anything that worries you?
The future worries me a bit. Now that I’ve reached 40 years of age some anxiety has settled in.
Will you go into management?
I don’t know, it’s so stressful… I’ll do something that can give me adrenaline. But as long as I hold up, I’ll be a striker. I want to compete for the Scudetto until the final day and go to the World Cup in Qatar.