Skip to content

Zlatan: “I don’t need the Ballon d’Or to know I’m the best”

Nov 28, 2013, 10:12 PM EDT

France Soccer League One AP

This will only fuel those reluctant to acknowledge what Zlatan Ibrahimovic does on the field, but after yesterday’s UEFA Champions League match, the Paris Saint-German star didn’t hold back when asked about this year’s Ballon d’Or. With Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo,and Frank Ribéry favorites for men’s soccer’s highest honor, Ibrahimovic knows he won’t win the award. But according to the Swede, his standing in the eyes of awards voters doesn’t influence how he fells about his game.

“I don’t need the Ballon d’Or to know I’m the best,” the ever-confident striker said yesterday, having scored the opening goal of his team’s 2-1 Wednesday win over visiting Olympiacos. The victory put the defending Ligue 1 champions into Champions League’s knockout round, with Ibrahimovic scoring his competition-leading eighth goal of the tournament.

Given his name’s been missing from the Ballon d’Or discussion, Ibrahimovic’s claim is unlikely to be a popular one. The general feeling is that three players are competing for this year’s award: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Franck Ribéry. If Ibrahimovic really is the world’s best, odds are some extra-competitive factors are influencing how he’s perceived.

And of course, there are. The type of brashness that “Ibra” shows leads him to be thought of as an arrogant, self-centered player. While that may very well be true, those terms are often used a prejoratives, people confounding those qualities with an unwillingness to help a team. As Ibrahimovic’s title record shows, his teams seemed to be helped by his arrogance. Over the last 11 seasons, Ibra’s clubs have won 10 titles across five different leagues, the Swede almost always serving as the focal point of his teams’ attacks.

Isn’t it possible that arrogance, confidence, or an undo level of self-believe could be a positive on a soccer field? Leading you to strive for levels others dare not achieve, like a 30-yard bicycle kick in a high-level international friendly?

And isn’t it possible that ambition is actually a good thing? That our want to see such attitudes as inherently negative obscures the possibility that, on the rare occasion that pride matches production, arrogance can help a team?

As people compared Cristiano Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic during the recent UEFA World Cup Qualifying playoffs, there seemed to finally be the willingness to look beyond Ibra’s reputation and recognize what he brings to a team. Despite years of media accounts (particularly, English media accounts) trying to tear him down, Ibrahimovic has taken his rightful place amongst the world’s best. W’ve acknowledged you can be brash off the field and great on it.

Does that mean Ibrahimovic is right when he calls himself the best in the world? No, even if his honesty is refreshing. If you were to dose Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with truth serum, you’d probably get the same answers. It’s hard to compete to be the world’s best player without that kind of attitude, even though Messi and Ronaldo have public faces which obscure their confidence. Ibrahimovic bizarrely gets punished for forgoing the facade.

But he’s no Lionel Messi. Nobody is, right now. As polished and ruthless as Ronaldo can be, not even the Real Madrid star can claim to be a healthy Messi’s equal.

Why Frank Ribéry is in theBallon d’Or discussion over Ibrahimovic, well, we touched on that earlier. Ibrahimovic can claim to be one of the world’s top three players, but sometimes, team factors can poison what’s supposed to be an individual award.

Latest Posts
  1. Omar Gonzalez targeting Monday return to LA Galaxy’s defense

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Gonzalez Getty Images

    Gonzalez resumed full training on Friday with the hope of starting in Seattle.

  2. Everton willing to set club transfer record to bring Lukaku back

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT

    Lukaku Getty Images

    Roberto Martínez is ready to spend close to $35 million to secure the 21-year-old’s return.

  3. Arsenal on the verge of signing Calum Chambers from Southampton

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT

    calum_chambers Getty Images

    Medical with Gunners and fee agreement has Chambers on the verge of departing for North London.

  4. Knee injury will keep Lallana out of Liverpool’s Premier League opener

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    www.liverpoolfc.com www.liverpoolfc.com

    LCL injury could sideline former Southampton star for six weeks.

  5. Houston acquires Honduran international Luis Garrido on loan from Olimpia

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT

    luis_garrido AP

    23-year-old brings another ball-winner to the Dynamo midfield.

  6. Bebé done at Manchester United; Portuguese attacker joins Benfica

    Jul 25, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    ManchesterUnited

    One of Alex Ferguson’s most notorious transfers has found a new home with Benfica.

  7. Dutch left back Patrick van Aanholt moves from Chelsea to Sunderland

    Jul 25, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    patrick van aanholt

    Five years of development by the Blues ends with the 23-year-old’s departure.

  8. A quick guide to who’s come and gone from Premier League teams

    Jul 25, 2014, 3:11 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Chile AP

    From Sanchez and Luiz to Suarez and Sidwell, a breakdown of the top names to have come and gone from the Premier League.

  9. Saints exodus continues with Lovren medical at Liverpool

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Things are looking dicey at Southampton, where yet another player is set to skip town.

  10. Didier Drogba has officially rejoined Jose Mourinho at Chelsea

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.42.00 PM

    A one-year move and mutual respect between the coach and player could make this a relatively-shrewd move for the Blues.

  11. Revs send DP on loan to Argentina, prepping for incoming attackers

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Houston Dynamo v New England Revolution Getty Images

    Jerry Bengston is going on loan to Belgrano, while New England president Brian Bilello is working on a number of attacking options.

  12. Who is Houston’s new World Cup mid? Reports say it’s this Honduran

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:24 AM EDT

    Honduras v Ecuador: Group E - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Dynamo president Chris Canetti made waves when he said the team would be adding to the DaMarcus Beasley signing soon with a World Cup starter.

  13. Maradona blasts Argentina team, says Messi was better when he was boss

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 21: Diego Maradona looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Iran at Estadio Mineirao on June 21, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Getty Images

    World Cup final, so what? Diego Maradona is not pleased with the way his nation played in Brazil.

  14. ‘Hacked’ video shows that French defender to City move is all but done

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    France Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Barring something wild, young Eliaquim Mangala is taking his French national team talent to Manchester.

  15. FIFA says World Cup will stay in Russia, “can achieve positive change”

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    FBL-WC2022-FIFA-QATAR-LABOUR-SLAVERY-UNIONS Getty Images

    It can be the soccer tournament that changes Russia forever (so implies FIFA)

  16. Arturo Vidal may not stay at Juve; Shuts door on Manchester United

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:57 AM EDT

    FBL-ITA-SERIE A- JUVENTUS-PALERMO-SCUDETTO Getty Images

    The 27-year-old Chilean is very much in demand, but also happy at a Champions League club.

  17. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 3-1 Montréal Impact

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:21 AM EDT

    Olmes Garcia

    Olmes Garcia’s second half double lifted RSL.

  18. DaMarcus Beasley, introduced in Houston: I see myself as a left back

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

    DaMarcus Beasley

    Introduced to the media in Houston, Beasley said he’s move on from midfield.

  19. Wenger talks Zelalem, gets taste of U.S. obsession for potential international

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT

    Wenger Getty Images

    With Wenger interview, SI had to get Zelalem out of the way first.