Football: Ibra not content to be royalty

Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic controlling a ball during a training session before the Euro 2016 match against Ireland last month. The new Manchester United recruit said: "I admire Cantona and I heard what he said," but decided he would outrank th
Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic controlling a ball during a training session before the Euro 2016 match against Ireland last month. The new Manchester United recruit said: "I admire Cantona and I heard what he said," but decided he would outrank the Frenchman.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Told by Cantona he'll only be the prince of Manchester, he says he aspires to be 'god'

LONDON • Zlatan Ibrahimovic has told Eric Cantona that becoming the prince of Manchester United is not enough. He wants to be "god" of Old Trafford.

Cantona, nicknamed "the king" during his time at United, sent a tongue-in-cheek message to the Swede that Ibrahimovic would not be able to wear his crown but could still become prince at United after joining the club on a free transfer.

However, the 34-year-old responded in typically bullish fashion.

"I admire Cantona and I heard what he said," Ibrahimovic was quoted in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

"But I won't be king of Manchester. I will be god of Manchester."

Cantona, 50, who scored 82 goals in 185 appearances during his 41/2 years at United, welcomed Ibrahimovic to the club and even offered him the No. 7 shirt in a video for Eurosport.

NOT BIG ENOUGH FOR BOTH

There can only be one King in Manchester. You can be the prince if you want to. And the No. 7 is yours if you are interested.

ERIC CANTONA, Manchester United legend, anointing his Old Trafford successor.

THE SKY'S THE LIMIT

But I won't be King of Manchester. I will be god of Manchester.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC, United's new striker, setting his sights higher.

The retired France international said: "I have a personal message for Zlatan: You decided to go red. It is the best choice you ever made.

"When you walk into the Theatre of Dreams. When you can feel the ghosts of the legends that have been here before. When you score that first goal right in front of Stretford End. When you hear the crowd chanting your name.

"When your heart beats so strong that it bursts out of your chest. When you feel that you will love them as much as they will love you. You will know, my friend, that you finally made it home.

"Just one last thing, there can only be one king in Manchester. You can be the prince if you want to. And the No. 7 is yours if you are interested. That is my welcome gift to you… The king is gone! Long live the prince!"

Ibrahimovic will gladly receive Cantona's "gift" of the No. 7 shirt if he desires, but clearly being a prince is too underwhelming for him.

Expectations are high for the Swede even before the start of the English Premier League football season, and they may now skyrocket after his declaration that he wants to be a god in Manchester. But many have been predicting that he will do well at Old Trafford.

Patrick Vieira, a former team-mate of Ibrahimovic at Juventus and Inter Milan, said: "What I really like about him is his character - he is a winner, a guy who can drive the team because of his character and that is a very good signing for Manchester United."

 

On the day that Ibrahimovic signed for United, former defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted: "#zlatan looks a little happy to be joining @manutd! Great ability, character, ego, leader, personality for the club. And a proven winner."

It also remains to be seen how well Ibrahimovic will link up with Jose Mourinho, having spent one successful season with the manager at Inter in 2008.

While the Portuguese has had a reputation for falling out with his players at Chelsea last season, he has also maintained good relationships with others.

Ibrahimovic, who mentioned that Mourinho was one of the reasons he moved to United, is notably one of them.

Others, like Wesley Sneijder, who also played for Mourinho's Inter, once said that he was "ready to kill and die" for the 53-year-old, who granted him a holiday to the beach just because he looked tired.

United headed to China on their pre-season tour yesterday but Ibrahimovic was left behind by Mourinho, with the manager considering handing the striker his friendly debut against Galatasaray on July 30 or Everton on Aug 3.

Although United's 25-man squad for the trip included Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, David de Gea and Paddy McNair, who all exited Euro 2016 later than Ibrahimovic, the Swede was granted extra time off by Mourinho and is currently sunning himself in Los Angeles.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Ibra not content to be royalty'. Print Edition | Subscribe