I have always been a fan of Zlatan.
The only time I ever returned to Ajax, a young Ibrahimovic was there. I had to stay fit for the national team at the end of 2003/04 season while I was in Amsterdam for the week, so Ronald Koeman, Ajax manager at the time, allowed me to train with his first team for the week.
Anyone who meets Zlatan will tell you that he’s an interesting character who says exactly what he wants, and if you don’t like it you’ll just have to deal with it. I learned that first hand.
We were in the players centre at Ajax and Zlatan approached me. If you’ve ever seen clips of him you’ll know that he likes to joke around and tease people. He kept teasing Steven Pienaar and took the jokes quite far, to the point where I thought this is serious. And the next day it happened again, so I walked over and told him to take it easy. He looked at me and then the next morning he started with me.
An hour later we are on the field playing the game so I thought I’m going to give him a lesson. But let me tell you, that was one hard battle. I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a player who is that strong and skilled at the same time. I had to use all my force and experience to stop him.
After training, he walked up to me and said “thanks for the battle,” and with that, the teasing was over.
From that day I became a fan. I followed his career closely and saw him win so many trophies in different countries with different clubs. I do understand that people are worried about Marcus Rashford’s playing time and development at Man United now that Zlatan has made the move to Manchester, but this is the perfect opportunity for him.
Learn from the best to be the best.
I’m talking from experience because the first day I arrived in the dressing room at Chelsea it was full of World Cup winners. Life as a footballer should never be too easy and you should always feel like you’re being pushed to your best. What will be better for him – playing up front alone or playing with Zlatan next to him, the player he can go to for advice?
What a luxury!