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. Victor Valdes to trudge on at Manchester United after Besiktas move falls apart

    Aug 30, 2015, 9:29 AM EDT

    Valdes Getty Images

    Could Valdes be forced to stay with Manchester United despite his obvious wish to leave?

  2. Australian striker scores eight goals in A-League preseason match

    Aug 30, 2015, 8:46 AM EDT

    Maclaren Getty Images

    Oh the season hasn’t started yet? Jamie Maclaren wasn’t aware.

  3. Watch Live: Southampton vs Norwich City (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Koeman Getty Images

    Ronald Koeman must pick up a win fast or risk seeing Southampton in a serious early season hole.

  4. Montreal’s Frank Klopas becomes first MLS head coach fired this season

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT

    Klopas Getty Images

    A single coach had yet to be fired as we approach the start of September, but that changed as Montreal made a change.

  5. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-0 Real Salt Lake (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:37 PM EDT

    Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas

    The playoffs look a might big ask of RSL, as they sit rock bottom, 10th place, in the Western Conference.

  6. MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 2-1 Sporting Kansas City (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT

    Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC & Vicente Sanchez, Colorado Rapids Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC & Vicente Sanchez, Colorado Rapids

    Three losses in a row for Sporting KC, and the team with the highest points-per-game total is slipping in the West.

  7. Premier League Sunday preview: Man United looking for revenge vs. Swansea City

    Aug 29, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT

    Wayne Rooney, Manchester United FC Getty Images

    Man United fell twice at the hand of Swansea City in 2014-15. On Sunday, Louis van Gaal takes his crack at revenge.

  8. MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-1 Montreal Impact (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    Michael Bradley, Toronto FC Michael Bradley, Toronto FC

    Michael Bradley powered TFC to a 2-1 victory in the 401 Derby, and essentially locked up a playoff place in doing so.

  9. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 1-2 Columbus Crew SC (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Mix Diskerud, New York City FC Mix Diskerud, New York City FC

    NYCFCs struggles continued on Saturday, as they lost to a very poor road team in Columbus Crew SC.

  10. VIDEO: Which of James Rodriguez’s stunning goals is better? Is it the free kick? Bicycle kick?

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez, Real Madrid CF Getty Images

    James Rodriguez scored two filthy goals on Saturday. We need your help deciding which one was more impressive.

  11. Bundesliga wrap: Aussie magic helps Ingolstadt shock Augsburg (video); Bayern, Mainz roll

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:55 PM EDT

    Bayern's Arjen Robben, center, celebrates with teammates Thomas Mueller, left, and Arturo Vidal after scoring  his side's third goal from the penalty spot during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen 04 in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) AP

    Bayern Munich continued its strong start to the Bundesliga campaign, and will be the only team to boast a 3-0 record unless BVB beats Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

  12. Pochettino: Tottenham “much better than Everton,” but nothing to show for it is frustrating

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur FC Getty Images

    Being the “better” side is a subjective thing, of course, especially when you fail to win.

  13. Premier League roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool suffer stunning home defeats

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Catch up on all the action from eight games on Saturday, as there were plenty of shocks in the PL.

  14. Arsene Wenger: It was difficult playing up a man, but “vital for Arsenal to win today”

    Aug 29, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC Getty Images

    Arsene Wenger isn’t panicking over another close call against Newcastle United. The way he sees it, they did well to win 1-0 on an own goal.

  15. Tim Howard ready for USMNT return, as heroics rescue Everton

    Aug 29, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Tim Howard Tim Howard

    With Howard back in a U.S. jersey next week, he put in a Man of the Match display to grab Everton a point at Spurs.

  16. Three things we learned from Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

    Aug 29, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Here’s three things we learned from the Lane.

  17. Tottenham 0-0 Everton: Howard stands tall as Toffees weather Spurs storm

    Aug 29, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    Howard Getty Images

    Spurs attacked for much of the match but were held off the scoresheet by American goalkeeper Tim Howard.

  18. Brendan Rodgers says both Liverpool and the referee struggled at Anfield

    Aug 29, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    The Liverpool manager was disappointed in the Reds play but also criticized the referee.

  19. Mourinho praises Crystal Palace after shocking Chelsea loss

    Aug 29, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    Jose Mourinho gave lots of credit to today’s worthy opponent, but did stay somewhat true to his nature.

  20. Stoke City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion: Nine-man Potters downed by Rondon

    Aug 29, 2015, 12:04 PM EDT

    Afellay and Adam sent off as Baggies down Potters on Pulis’ return.

Featured video

Premier League, Week 3 review