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The Life of Zlatan the Great

Simon Kuper of the Financial Times profiles Inter Milan wizard Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who's on course to winning his fourth title (sort of) in as many years with three different clubs: Ajax in '04 and '05, Juventus in '06 and now Inter in '07. Juventus, of course, was later stripped of its '06 title for fixing matches, but as Ibra will tell you, that had nothing to do with him.

Zlatan is the kind of arrogant bad-boy type most parents raise their kids to avoid. Son of a Croat father and Bosnian mother, Zlatan's parents found refuge in an immigrant neighborhood in the port town of Malmoe. The former headmistress of his school recalls: "Zlatan is easily in the top five of the most unruly pupils we have ever had. He was the number one bad boy, a one-man show, a prototype of the kind of child that ends up in serious trouble."

Kuper says that Zlatan's "ghetto" qualities are what made him special on the soccer field. Blessed (or some might say "cursed") with the sensibility of a street basketball player who makes up his own moves and then names them, Zlatan used to play soccer for the showmanship of it, to stand out and feel special. This, of course, completely goes against the unwritten Swedish rules of decorum, but that's why Swedish fans love him -- for his brashness. Zlatan has his own style, something most workmanlike Swedish players lack. And the scary thing is, at 25, he's only going to get better-and more confident.

Read the whole story at Financial Times »

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