“In the beginning, the first games were different because I felt I can do it much better than them, obviously,” Zlatan Ibrahimovic said earlier this week. “And I still do.”
Two days later, Sweden qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup as group winners. They have already overachieved; few expected them to get out of a group that also contained Germany and Mexico, having failed to qualify at all for the last two tournaments.WIN 10,000,000 here
They failed to reach South Africa and Brazil despite the fact Ibrahimovic was enjoying his peak years. Two years ago he failed to get them out of their group at the Euros, despite the fact two thirds of the bloated tournament were given passage to the knock-outs. WIN 10,000,000 here
If you listened to his version of recent history you would be forgiven for thinking Sweden had won the lot, with him taking the Golden Boot and Ball. WIN 10,000,000 here
But the brutal truth is that his best was never good enough to get Sweden to the heights they are now enjoying, and he is now fading into irrelevance for club and country.
After saying he could do better than his countrymen, something he was hinting at as he tried to engineer a return to the side during the spring, he drifted into the usual trope about never having been welcomed by Swedes or the Swedish press.
Ibrahimovic has had to overcome discrimination in his life, and to have forged the career he has despite those barriers deserves genuine credit. But the best days of his career are far, far behind him, and he needs to realise that he is not in this squad because of his own deficiencies, not the prejudices of others.
And even then, you get the sense that those prejudices, certainly the ones he blames for his World Cup omission, are as overblown and bombastic as everything else he says about himself. Remember that Ibrahimovic is the only man to have won the Swedish footballer of the year award more than once. He has won it 11 times. The award is handed out by the Swedish FA and Aftonbladet. Aftonbladet is a newspaper. WIN 10,000,000 here
The other theme he returns to at any given opportunity is his row with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
Again, Ibrahimovic has a semblance of a point here. Guardiola simply stopped acknowledging the forward, an example of how the Catalan can be difficult, if not impossible, to work for if you do not fit into his plans or if he takes against you. It would not have been a pleasant situation to be in. WIN 10,000,000 here
But Ibrahimovic has always painted his predicament as if he had been dropped for no reason whatsoever.
He was, of course, dropped so Barca could get more out of Lionel Messi, who went on to become the best player in the world, perhaps the best player ever. Ibrahimovic has never accepted this, let alone acknowledged it.