Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Manchester United aren’t doing too badly at the moment. A win against Middlesbrough and a dismal weekend for Arsenal make their top-four aspirations look more than attainable.
Despite years of success, the giant Swede has had some terrible times as a professional footballer. Like when he got into a “brutal” brawl with a team-mate in training.
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In his incredibly readable book, I Am Zlatan – which includes many a tale of the former PSG striker’s enthralling history, from growing up on the mean streets of Rosengard to refusing to play for Juventus after their relegation following the match-fixing scandal – Ibrahimovic recalls a full-on punch up with a team-mate he failed to see eye-to-eye with.
Ibrahimovic’s story begins shortly after he joined AC Milan in 2010. During the build-up to the Milan derby, Zlatan mentions how he “had issues with” the colossal American centre-back, Oguchi Onyewu.
As Ibrahimovic recalls it, he and Onyewu brawled after a fiery exchange, a fight that would leave Sweden’s all-time top goalscorer with a broken rib.
We’ll let Zlatan take it from here.
“Onyewu resembled a heavyweight boxer. He was nearly 6ft 5in and weighed over 15 stone, but he couldn’t handle me. He accused me of trash talking, but that wasn’t true. People trash talk me. I’ve heard so much s**t over the years: ‘F****** gypsy’, stuff about my mum — all that stuff. I retaliate with my body, not with words.
“I told Onyewu I did not trash talk, but he just kept on. He shushed me with his finger. Then he did it again. I saw red. I didn’t say anything, not a word. That b****** was going to find out how I trash-talk!
“The next time he got the ball in training, I rushed towards him and jumped up with my feet and studs out in front — the worst type of tackle. But he saw me and leapt out of the way. As we both crashed to the ground, my first thought was: ‘S**t! I’ve missed!’ As I got up and walked away I felt a blow to my shoulder. Not a good idea, Oguchi Onyewu.
“I headbutted him, and we flew at each other. We wanted to tear each other limb from limb. It was brutal. We were rolling around, punching and kneeing each other. We were crazy and furious — it was like life and death.
Afterwards, the weirdest thing happened. Onyewu started praying to God with tears in his eyes, making the sign of the cross. This felt like a provocation, and I got more furious.
“I was stopped by my team-mates, and I suppose that was a good thing. It could have turned out nasty.
“All the time, I was thinking: ‘S***, my chest hurts,’ so we had it checked out. I’d broken a rib in the fight.”
So if you think Zlatan’s had a bad week over the past seven days, he’s weathered much worse in his time.