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. Louis van Gaal the bookies’ favorite to permanently replace David Moyes

    Apr 21, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT

    The most likely replacement for Moyes is Holland manager Louis van Gaal, at 3/1.

  2. Report: David Moyes to be fired as Manchester United manager

    Apr 21, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT

    David Moyes AP

    The Telegraph is reporting that time has run out for Manchester United manager David Moyes, having lost the backing of club ownership.

  3. Lionel Messi set to receive improved deal from Barcelona

    Apr 21, 2014, 9:21 AM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Gorka Iraizoz AP

    “Messi is under contact until 2018,” Bartomeu told TV3. “But we want to improve it to adapt to football’s current situation.”

  4. Premier League Title Watch: Liverpool inches closer

    Apr 21, 2014, 8:35 AM EDT

    Norwich City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Barring an epic collapse by Liverpool, Chelsea’s title hopes are limited to the Champions League.

  5. Premier League Preview: Manchester City v. West Brom

    Apr 21, 2014, 7:34 AM EDT

    Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Despite the Albion’s poor status in the league they have managed to take points this season each of the Top 7 except City.

  6. WATCH: Reporter gets blasted by Whitecaps shot, barely misses a beat

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    https://twitter.com/KelliTennant https://twitter.com/KelliTennant

    It’s actually amazing how quickly she regroups — in an instant — after getting blasted.

  7. Quick Six: Liverpool inches closer, Moyes’ reception, and the rest of the headlines from the BPL weekend

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT

    norwich_city_liverpool AP

    Mourinho changes his communications style, while Villa tried to secure its sale.

  8. Report: Despite history, Evra tabs Suarez as PFA Player of the Year

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    evra_suarez_2140860b Getty Images

    No one would blame Evra for ignoring Suarez’s season, but it really is a strong nod to the Frenchman’s class.

  9. WATCH: Blackpool coach sent off after hitting own player in face

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:18 PM EDT

    Blackpool v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    Blackpool: Where dozens of tangerines and tennis balls on the pitch are second in weirdness to a coach striking his own player

  10. Newcastle defender laments first ever five-match Premier League skid

    Apr 20, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v Swansea City Getty Images

    The Magpies have been brutal, and manager Alan Pardew’s return from suspension could require a job-saving performance.

  11. Report: Majority of Mexico’s World Cup roster slots are set

    Apr 20, 2014, 7:36 PM EDT

    RCD Espanyol v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Plenty of notable names remain in question for Miguel Herrera.

  12. WATCH: Ale Bedoya’s half-volley part of Nantes blowout of Valenciennes

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:41 PM EDT

    Alejandro Bedoya AP

    Bedoya’s fifth Ligue 1 goal was part of a 6-2 win.

  13. Spain roundup: Atletico now three wins away, but Barcelona keeps pace

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Gorka Iraizoz AP

    Atletico Madrid is now 3 wins away from its first La Liga title since 1996, while Barcelona and Real Madrid can only hope for big mistakes

  14. Portland’s Porter praises form, but captain Johnson just wants wins

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    MLS Real Salt Lake Timbers AP

    The Timbers fell to 0-3 on the road this season with Saturday’s 1-0 loss, complicating an already head-scratching start to the year that has Portland in second-to-last place out West at 0W-3L-4T.

  15. Americans Abroad Review: Bedoya buries one, Boyd bags brace

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT

    Yevhen Khacheridi, Terrence Boyd AP

    How many Americans could find themselves in the UEFA Champions League next season?

  16. WATCH: Arlo White, Graeme Le Saux talk Everton and Manchester United

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT

    Romelu Lukaku, Alexander Buttner AP

    Arlo White and Graeme Le Saux break down how having a clear identity continues to push Everton above teams while Manchester United’s lack of an identity continues to hurt the team.

  17. Despite season’s disappointing end, Blanc close to PSG extension

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Blanc Getty Images

    With domestic success and European disappointment, Paris Saint-Germain has decided to extend Blanc’s contract and the manager says it will be finalized in the coming days.

  18. Roberto Martinez revels in Everton’s humbling of Manchester United

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    After Toffees do the double over United, Martinez praises Moyes work and his own side:

  19. Video: Liverpool’s title charge headed by selfless teamwork

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    SuarezSterling

    Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling combined for Liverpool’s second goal, and video showed it wasn’t a fluke they knew exactly where their teammate was going to be.

  20. David Moyes vilified on return to Everton, as Manchester United nightmare continues

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Everton’s old boss the villain on return to Goodison, as pastures new prove to be a nightmare:

Featured video

Liverpool close in on PL title