“I Am Zlatan” Book Review

Athlete autobiographies are very common place nowadays. Most athletes see writing an autobiography as an easy way to make some cash. Who can blame them? Fans are ravenous in their hunger for even the most mundane details of an an athletes life and athletes are smart enough to make a quick buck exploiting that. Unfortunately, many athletes are already trying to live very private lives because of all the media scrutiny they attract which is not very conducive to writing a “tell all” autobiography. The resulting books they write tend to read like they were put through a heavy filter by the athlete’s PR director. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has proven in his dealings with fans and the media that he has no filter and this personality trait helped him write one of the most truthful and enjoyable autobiographies written by an athlete on the market today.

Zlatan was born into poverty and was the product of two immigrant parents. His parents split up during his formative years so he spent most of his life caught in a very difficult family situation. As if the difficult family situation was not bad enough he also lived in poverty in the slums of Malmo, Sweden. Because of his difficult upbringing he frequently acted out either through mild crimes such as stealing bikes or getting into fights. This acting out would be an integral part of his character and be one of the main reasons he has acted in such a rash manner both on the soccer field and with the media.

The environment he grew up in would also play a large part is the soccer player he eventually became. In the slums of Malmo, Sweden most immigrant kids did not associate themselves with Sweden. Instead they saw themselves as outcasts from Swedish society. Zlatan himself said he did not see the Swedish national team play a game until his late teens. Without Swedish soccer idols to turn to, Zlatan obsessed over Brazilian soccer players and would always practice the moves of players such as Ronaldo so he could use them when playing with friends. Since Sweden is not known for flashy players, Zlatan stood out in both a good way and a bad way. Parents of players of the teams he played on did not like him because he was seen as arrogant and individualistic. The coaches had similar views but they also so the benefit of his individual brilliance. This dichotomy of both disgust and awe forms the crux on which Zlatan has built his career.

As Zlatan went through his career he was preyed upon by agents/coaches looking to exploit him for financial gain, reporters exploiting him for the next big story, and fans turning their back on him because he had the audacity to look out for his own personal needs. Most autobiographies gloss over the intricate details of the negative events such as these so they don’t alienate fans or future teams they may get transferred too. Zlatan doesn’t care. He makes it perfectly clear what his thoughts are on things such as Pep Guardiola or what his career goals are and his honesty is incredibly refreshing. If he wanted to set a goal scoring record in his career he admits it instead of lying and saying something like, “All I cared about was the team.” Soccer fans are not dumb. They know that soccer players have to look out for themselves. However, most soccer players will lie to perpetuate their image in the media. Zlatan’s image as portrayed by the media is not the most positive so he feels no need to protect it.

Not every soccer fan likes Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His individual brilliance on the field is appreciated by all but his arrogant attitude is seen by many as off-putting. After reading this book many will change their opinions. By seeing into the mind of Zlatan and how he grew up it greatly explains why Zlatan has become the person he is today. There are no apologies in this book for his negative characteristics because it is those exact characteristics that helped him survive in his early years and become the player his is today. Though he may be arrogant it is hard not to appreciate the honesty in this book. Zlatan exposes himself in this book, scars and all, and it gives you a deeper appreciation for him as a person. In fact, it makes other autobiographies seem fake and overtly calculated. Whatever your thoughts on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, you should read this book. If you don’t come away with more appreciation for the man himself then at least you’ll see how a true athlete autobiography is meant be written.

Excerpt: “That One Time Zlatan Ibrahimović Threw Shade At Dutch Boss Van Gaal”


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