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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is number 15 in 90min’s Top 20 Greatest Footballers of the Decade series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next three weeks.
In 2014, Nike launched their famous ‘Dare to Zlatan’ campaign which encouraged young footballers to be fearless, adventurous and unique.
No mortal would say the man in question has any concerns, that he is in the slightest bit cautious, or that he lacks individuality. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the human embodiment of all three adjectives, a player who truly breaks the mould and explores new territories.
If you were to compile a list of the top ten jaw-dropping moments in the Swede’s career, you’d have to leave out a long line of worthy candidates. The sublime is his forte and the extraordinary is simply ordinary to him.
From breaking through at Malmo to his record-breaking time in Major League Soccer, Zlatan has done things his own way. No one has ever been able to suppress the striker’s flair and originality for too long.
Ibrahimovic’s talents were clear to see from his earliest days as a professional in Sweden. For a teenager taking their first steps at senior level, 18 goals in 47 matches is a fine return.
Arsene Wenger evidently agreed, yet he was unable to lure the youngster to Arsenal in 2000. He’d been asked to take part in a trial for the Gunners, to which he replied (as per the Telegraph): “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.”
Instead, it was Ajax who bought him into the public eye as they paid Malmo €8m for his services, Ibrahimovic taking full advantage of the added exposure to launch himself into the stratosphere.
Mesmerising goals are hardly uncommon across the forward’s career, but few knew quite what the starlet was capable of before his dazzling dance through NAC Breda’s backline during the 2004/05 season.
Pirouetting beyond seven different challenges from would-be tacklers, Ibrahimovic left three defenders on the floor and all of them in disbelief as he single-handedly carved Breda open.
Zlatan came to the Netherlands, he saw what there was to see and he conquered it, setting the trend for his career by winning a string of trophies before moving on to new projects.
Two Eredivisies titles were earned during three years at Ajax, with a KNVB Cup also helping expand his silverware collection, the Dutch club then selling him to Juventus for double the fee they gave Malmo.
Back-to-back Scudetti came Ibrahimovic’s way after arriving in Turin, yet the Bianconeri w
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