Zlatan Ibrahimovic: a player like no other to grace the Premier League | Observer profile

A child of refugees, a bad boy at school and a literary sensation with a totemic ego, the supremely confident Swedish superstar takes to the pitch for Manchester United today

On his transfer from the French champions Paris St Germain to Manchester United in June, Zlatan Ibrahimovi? summed up his time in the French capital with typical understated modesty: “I arrived a king and I left a legend,” he said. As he described in his wonderfully unguarded autobiography I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovi?, the Swedish footballer grew up idolising Muhammad Ali; like Ali, he has not only always been his own greatest promoter, but he also loves nothing more than to back his talk with results. Now 34, Ibrahimovi? led the French club to its fourth consecutive league championship last year, scoring 38 league goals. He also created a lexicon all his own.

A primer published in France, Ainsi parler Zlatan!, (Let’s speak Zlatan!) celebrated the nuances of that idiom, mostly practised in after-match interviews. A Devil’s Dictionary of all things Ibrahimovi?, it offered an A-Z of the striker’s world, from “Air Zlatan”: “Zlatan does not fly first class or business class, only Zlatan class” to the verb “Zlataner”: “to crush, pulverise and dismember an opponent” (a definition now in the Swedish version of the OED).

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