Soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born on October 3, 1981, in Malmö, Sweden, to a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother. His parents divorced when Ibrahimovic was 2, and he spent a difficult childhood in the immigrant-populated district of Rosengård. By his own account, Ibrahimovic was a bicycle thief and a school bully, but he developed into a tall, agile athlete with an obvious talent for playing soccer.
Ibrahimovic made his professional debut for Malmö FF in 1999, and helped the second-division club make the leap to the first level the following season. The 6’5″ striker then signed with the prominent Dutch club AFC Ajax and honed his formidable skills as part of two title-winning teams, though he also developed a reputation as a temperamental player.
After four years with Ajax, Ibrahimovic transferred to Juventus F.C. and led the Italian club to two Serie A championships. However, Juventus was stripped of those titles when club management was charged with fixing matches in the infamous Calciopoli scandal, and Ibrahimovic forced a transfer to A.C. Milan. More success followed for the towering striker, who won three straight Serie A titles and claimed his first league scoring crown in 2009.
Traded to F.C. Barcelona for Samuel Eto’o in 2009, Ibrahimovic starred for a loaded club that rolled to a league title and Super Cup victories, but he butted heads with manager Pep Guardiola and spent the following season on loan to A.C. Milan. The Italian club purchased his contract outright for 2011-12 and Ibrahimovic claimed his second scoring crown, although his amazing streak of eight straight seasons on a title-winning club came to an end.
After transferring to Paris Saint-Germain in 2012, the veteran striker proved he had plenty left in the tank by claiming a third scoring title with a career-high 30 goals, and leading the club to its first Ligue 1 title in 19 years.
Moving on to Manchester United in 2016, Ibrahimovic helped the English club win the 2017 UEFA Europa League Final. He returned the following season, but did not play after aggravating a knee injury in late December.
In March 2018, the club confirmed it had terminated the veteran player’s contract, allowing him to follow through with a move to join the L.A. Galaxy in the U.S. Ibrahimovic followed with a statement on Instagram: “Great things also come to an end and it is time to move on after two fantastic seasons with Manchester United. Thank you to the club, the fans, the team, the coach, the staff and everybody who shared with me this part of my history.”
Public Image and Personal Life
One of soccer’s most polarizing figures, the striker trademarked “Zlatan” and “Zlatan Ibrahimovic” in 2003, establishing exclusive naming rights for sporting apparel and other products throughout the European Union.
Ibrahimovic met his girlfriend, former Swedish model Helena Seger, early in his professional career. They have two children together.
The soccer star released his autobiography, I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in late 2011. The bestselling memoir detailed Ibrahimovic’s rough childhood and his clashes with Guardiola and other players, and an English version was published in September 2013.