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Zlatan: “Haaland’s success depends on Guardiola’s ego”

The Swedish striker praised the Manchester City forward but told reporters that Pep Guardiola may hinder his progress

Joe Brennan
Pep Guardiola and Erling Haaland

Do I like Haaland”, Ibrahimovic asked himself rhetorically, a faux sense of contemplation etched across his face, “yes, very much so.” The former Barcelona player settled the crowd with a calm and - dare I say it - normal, opinion - but he knew what was about to come out of his mouth.

The praise continued from Zlatan, sat on his chair with that typical sense of self-worth, as though the spacetime continuum itself was converging in around him: “[Haaland] doesn’t try things that are out of his range, he doesn’t drop deep to play the ball. He waits up top in front of the goal and scores. He reminds me of players like Inzaghi, Trezeguet and Vieri. In fact, he’s a new version of the three.” Ok, so far, so good.

Pep and Ibrahimovic never saw eye to eye at FC Barcelona
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Pep and Ibrahimovic never saw eye to eye at FC Barcelonajesus aguileraDiarioAS

But like any good showman, the key is in the timing. Zlatan had drawn in the crowd before pulling out his line that would cause fingers to type and pen lids to fly: “But can Guardiola make him any better?” Another rhetorical question drew breath from the crowd who anticipated the incoming headline, “it depends on his ego. If he lets Haaland become bigger than him or not. He didn’t let me or any others do that.” Strong words from the man who played alongside Lionel Messi, a player who has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, two of them coming under Guardiola’s tutelage.

With the journalists present licking their lips and their fingers dancing across laptop keyboards like an army of disorientated ants, Ibrahimovic went even further into the rabbit hole. This time he took a shot at the other best young player in the world. Yes, poor Kylian Mbappé.

Another rhetorical question from Ibrahimovic, again repeating the question given to him (it was almost as though he was trying to add more emphasis to his response), “Do I think Mbappé did the right thing staying in Paris? For who? Himself? No. Maybe for PSG. He put himself in the position that is most important for the club and the club gave him the keys to everything.”

You are never bigger than your club”, said the striker, interestingly. He then moved on, turning his attention to the people who surround the PSG player: “But when a kid becomes powerful, he can make money easily. So his parents turn into lawyers, agents, coaches, that’s the problem. And when this happens you lose control over your personality and identity.

“With this new generation”, the 41 year-old continued, “the parents think they can turn into superstars, they also speak in the newspapers. Who do they think they are?”

Finally, ‘Ibraattacked the journalists who had criticised him over his praise for Karim Benzema. “Now that he’s won the Ballon d’Or, what do the journalists say? During the Russia World Cup the French journalists attacked me for saying he should have been in the national team. They attacked me because France had won the World Cup. I’d like to know what they’d say to me now. "

All in all, a quiet week for the ex-Barcelona man.


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