This book, this guy.
Intrigued by the fanfare with which the namesake of this autobiography joined Manchester United for the 2016-17 season, I thought it wise to get on board with the Ibrahimovic PR machine, and get familiar with the infamous footballer. I remember his magical moments and general presence in the football scene back in the day, but never one to turn down an opportunity to read further, took up this book.
How did it fare? Not bad, but not great either. I’d say this book is on par with going into a coffee shop to get a really strong latte, and ending up with hot milk. Theoretically fine, but lacking the kick you were hoping for. Let’s look at our scale and see how it comes up.
Is it a great book chock full of sexy football? No. And that’s what threw me the most. Looking at Ibrahimovic’s legendary football, the games he’s been key to, the central position he’s occupied under so many floodlit nights, this book simply came up short. The match accounts were few and what little there were failed to take the reader to the heart of the action. A disappointment all ’round.
How about importance? I hope Zlatan himself is chuffed with the final product as a book that encapsulates his legacy and status in the game, but to me, this book will sit quietly in amongst other sports books with very little about it to yell ‘READ ME’. That said, the importance of Zlatan’s book may well find itself in the business end of football. Much of the text covers the deals that saw his movement around teams from Sweden to Italy to Spain (note, it doesn’t cover the Old Trafford migration.). The parts about agents, contracts, multi party talks and the transactional nature of the game does distinguish the book from others in the category. Whilst this is interesting, and arguably important, again some of the writing lacked light and shade to give it some true flair and sporting chutzpah.
In the same vein, the entertainment facet is lacking in this book – but on the other hand, Zlatan’s own voice prevails. The writing is coarse, direct, and unafraid. Generous in praise for those he respects (Louis Van Gall I suspect keeps a copy somewhere in the guest bedroom), his commitment is not up for discussion. ‘Jose Mourinho would become someone I was willing to die for.’ is perhaps the pinnacle here, but Pep Guardiola? Not so much. As in Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read such punishing criticism of the man who saw Zlatan join and, infamously, leave, FC Barcelona. I also suspect Lionel Messi doesn’t wrap up copies of this book and share with relatives at Christmas. Just a hunch, given the blasting he also receives. I’m unsure if industry bitching qualifies as entertainment, but credit to Ibrahimovic for his honesty in his voice in this area.
Legacy wise, this book may well come up trumps. Were I a Premier League footballer (or a footballer for that matter), this wouldn’t be a bad model to follow. The book covers the complex life of a footballer – balancing home and family life with the day to day of football, coping with injury, working with personality clashes (or, in Zlatan’s case, not working. As in really really not working. As in, ‘a portrait of dysfunctionality’.) Although the book widely misses on opportunities to convey the enormity of a Champions League game, the sensory experience of global football or even the raw passion of Swedish, council estate soccer, the framework is not to be sniffed at. The book looks at life in football as whole – a literal sphere – where the reader can appreciate the varying pressures upon a young sportsman or woman in this pursuit; some players could have the chops to follow such a book plan and produce something truly special and literally chunky.
As alluded to earlier, does Zlatan’s book stoke the fires of controversy? I suppose if one calls slating Pep Guardiola promoting controversy, then perhaps. Some of the outrageous sums passed around the game and in the transfer market, maybe, but by and large, this doesn’t have the controversy factor of other category books. A nod to Zlatan there though – that could be because he actually doesn’t have the drug past of others, and whilst he alludes to a complicated family structure, his book is admirably discreet and respectful to those family members.
To circle back to my initial point, this book is a bit like warm milk – does the job, comforts, and nudges at the experience of something greater. Unfortunately though, by the end, there is a feeling that the order was wrong, or worse – that the barista in charge was just lacking a little in experience with his/her material. Not to worry, this book is not going to do any damage to the long term reputation of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but sadly will sit on my bookshelf with a distinct air of ‘could have been more’ around it.
Final score, a noble 4 out of 10.