Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed how frustration with the achievements of Swedish athletes inspired him to become a global star.
The 35-year-old Manchester United striker has won league titles with Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain among a host of other trophies during a glittering club career.
Ibrahimovic also became Sweden’s record goalscorer before retiring after Euro 2016, and his standards appear not to have slipped since his move to Old Trafford, with his winning goal against Crystal Palace on Wednesday taking his tally to eight in his last eight appearances.
And the outspoken forward, who was born in Malmo, admits that he always looked well beyond the borders of his home country as he aimed to forge a lasting legacy in football.
“I was aiming to make history,” said Ibrahimovic, speaking courtesy of A-Z Sportswear. “I wanted to make a difference in a way that people would discuss it long after I quit what I’m doing. That was my target.
“I didn’t want to do like the other ones. I wasn’t happy with what I saw. I come from Sweden, and for what the Swedish athletes achieved, I wasn’t happy with that.
“I saw the world. I wanted to be part of those things, where the world sees me, not only Sweden.
“That was too small for me. I had a bigger objective than Sweden. Sweden was my breakfast.”
Ibrahimovic spoke this year of his disappointment at not meeting Muhammad Ali before his death in June as he has always considered the celebrated boxer as a role model.
The 11-time Swedish footballer of the year says it was Ali’s ability to shoot down his critics that most inspired him as a youngster.
“I looked at different kind of personalities. That is what drove my motivation, my adrenaline,” he said.
“I liked Muhammad Ali. The way he was, the way he performed, the way he was talking, the way he was moving, the way he responded to the critics, to whoever talked.
“That was my inspiration. It’s exactly how it should be. I was training hard for it, every day, and I’m here now.”