Pitchside Europe

What Europe thinks about Zlatan Ibrahimovic

In Britain we have not always been convinced by the talents of the Swedish enigma that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Despite his amazing goalscoring record and an incredible nine championships in three different countries the adjectives 'arrogant' and 'overrated' have often accompanied descriptions of the striker.

However, he silenced the doubters on Wednesday night by scoring four absurdly good goals against England, including his stoppage time bicycle kick that is already being dubbed as one of the greatest goals ever.

But is the narrative the same throughout Europe? What do people in his native Sweden think of him? How about countries where he has piled his trade like Italy, Spain and his current home France?

And what about countries like Germany, Russia and Turkey? Places where, like in England, their country's football fans always been outsiders looking in on the Zlatan story?

We asked our editors throughout Europe how their countries feel when they hear his name mentioned.

Here is what Europe thinks of Zlatan Ibrahimovic:

Malena Johansson, Eurosport Sweden

From the beginning Zlatan has been a complex figure in Sweden. He has been loved by many but also disliked by some. Academic papers have been written about his role as representative of a new generation of Swedes and Swedish players, with immigrant parents and a more individualistic approach.

However, over the years the hate has faded and love has taken over almost completely. Basically, Swedes love and are very proud of our Zlatan. He is probably the one person in Sweden who generates the most media attention.

Historically we look up a lot to English football, and have been a little disturbed by the English not appreciating him, so that made us even more proud of this goal.

Still, he scored his four goals in our new national stadium on the same day as top politicians in the only right extremist party in the Swedish parliament were exposed for saying racist things on camera.

This was the news story of the day, until Zlatan's goal. The leader of this party has described Zlatan as "un-Swedish" and I think many people saw it as even more appropriate that he did this on the same day.

Several of the players commented on this. "I hope he shut them up. There is no better way", said Pontus Wernbloom.

While Kim Kallstrom added: "With foreign parents and some of the problems that we have in our community, hopefully he can unite the country in a positive way. He is a modern Swede and stands for the new Sweden.  It is very important for Sweden in general with the positive attitude that he gives to the country. For sure this is a little bigger than football."

Maxime Dupuis, Eurosport France

Zlatan has been a phenomenon since he arrived in France to play for Paris St Germain, partially because we don't have many superstars in our championship.

But, on the pitch, he has done a lot since he has arrived and has already scored 10 goals in Ligue 1.

Everything he does is a source of debate. When he scores, when he laughs, whatever — everything becomes a story. No interview will be conducted with a PSG player without a question being asked about Zlatan. He has become the standard to which everything else is measured.

He has made such a big impact that our version of Spitting Image — The Guignols — has invented a new verb in his honour: Zlataner.

It is difficult to translate but it basically 'to Zlatan' means to explode or dominate someone or something and has already entered the public consciousness.

Alessandro Brunetti, Eurosport Italy

In Italy, Zlatan played for three of the biggest clubs — Juventus, Internazionale and Milan - and he won titles with all of them.

So, when he played for their team, the fans loved him, but when he changed jersey his treason was far from welcome.  What's more, Ibra has a bad temper, so he is not always the most popular and likeable person in the world.

Obviously, he is one of the best forwards in the world, but he never won a Champions League and in Italy people hold that against him.

They think: "Ibra is amazing, but only in Serie A." Most people even look as his spell in Spain as failure because Barcelona seemed a better team both before he arrived and then after he left.

When he left Inter for Barcelona, Inter won the Champions League the following year, then he left Barcelona for Milan and Messi and Co. were victorious in Europe again without him.

For Italian people, his lack of success in Europe, is the one black mark on his CV.

Cristian Maxedo, Eurosport Spain

Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not have much luck in Spain. It's true he scored the goals that Barca demanded of him but his problems with coach Pep Guardiola (and according to some rumours, with Messi too) all combined to make Zlatan a big problem for Barcelona.

In addition, when he played, he played as a striker which forced Messi out on the wing, when Barcelona's best results came with Messi as centre forward.

The current Barcelona have been accused of having no plan B but just a few day ages Dani Alves said that plan B (playing with a tall forward) did not work in the past in clear reference to Ibrahimovic's season at the club.

In the eyes of the fans, Ibrahimovic was very popular (especially after his goal against Madrid) but when it started to come out that Messi and Ibra had problems, people were always going to side with Leo and not Ibra so they didn't rue his departure too much.

Fabian Kunze, Eurosport Germany

Zlatan splits German football fans. You won't find anybody saying "I don't care about this guy" - they either love or hate him.

As we are are one of the few countries in Europe where he hasn't played (yet), people here do not see him as a hero (as there are no achievements in German football for people to connect with), but he is seen as a maniac - in a positive as well as in a negative way.

However, after what happened in Berlin last month, when Sweden came back from 4-0 to draw 4-4 with the German national team, one thing is for sure, no one in these parts will ever consider any Swedish player as overrated, especially not Zlatan.

Igor Zelenitsyn, Eurosport Russia

When it comes to Russian-speaking football fans you could not pin down one collective opinion about Zlatan.

There are enraptured cries in the comment section of our stories when he creates another masterpiece that are only rivalled when Messi or Ronaldo do something similar.

But when he does something 'Zlatanish' like when he kung-fu kicked St Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier recemtly, they say that Ibrahimovic is without doubt modern football's biggest villain.

So if you wanted to use one phrase that would sum up the Russian perception of Zlatan — "genius bad boy" — would be close to the mark. He is capable of creating miracles on the football pitch but he has his ugly side too.

Onur Yunus Akmeric, Eurosport Turkey

No matter what team they support, Turkish footballers and fans have respect for Zlatan. Maybe he is not quite in the same class as Messi or Ronaldo, but when he is on his game, he is a wizard, he is capable of creating the type of moments that shock the world.

Regardless of their performance Turkish supporters love these kind of maniac players (Pascal Nouma is a very good example of somebody who had that impact playing Turkey).

In conclusion I can say that majority of Turkish supporters love Ibra. Messi may be the best, and Cristiano Ronaldo may be Messi's arch rival but you never underestimate the power of Zlatan.

In the movie that is football, he might start as the villain but things will twist before the end and he reveal himself to be a superhero that delights the audience.

He can be the bad guy, he can be Darth Vader, but in the end, he saves the galaxy.

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