Zlatan Ibrahimovic was in awe of Henrik Larsson’s ability.
In terms of players that are used to having all eyes on them, Zlatan Ibrahimovic most definitely fits the mould because the AC Milan striker relishes the attention but there’s one man that he looked up to throughout his international career, Henrik Larsson.
This being said, having won titles and cups in Italy, Spain, France, Holland, and England, Zlatan can back up his outrageous claims with some outrageous accolades and goals.
Aside from being one of the most decorated footballers in the world – he has won 31 trophies in his career – the former Manchester United, Inter Milan, and PSG striker has scored over 550 career goals over four decades.
This being said, there was a time when Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer was in awe of another Swedish great, Henrik Larsson.
In his book I Am Zlatan, Ibrahimovic recounts how he was originally quite awkward with the rest of his international colleagues. This wasn’t because he felt nervous, intimidated, or unworthy, but because he just wanted to get by.
“In fact, I was just awkward, and I didn’t want to get anyone else worked up, especially not Henrik Larsson, who I know as ‘Henke’ – he was like a God to me. He was playing for Celtic then, and it was that year – 2001 – that he was awarded the Golden Boot as the top goalscorer in all the European leagues. Henke was awesome, and when I heard he and I would be in the starting line-up against Switzerland, it felt great.”
Regarded as one of the greatest Swedish players of all time, Larsson played for Sweden in three World Cups and three European Championships, finishing third at the 1994 World Cup.
After being eliminated by Senegal in the 2002 World Cup, Larsson chose to retire from international football before agreeing to return to the national side for Euro 2004 where he scored three goals in four matches as Sweden reached the quarter-finals.
In his book, Ibrahimovic recounts just how much of a boost it was to get Larsson back in the yellow jersey.
“The European Championship was coming up in Portugal. That was my first big international tournament when I was an established member of the Sweden squad, and I remember Larsson called me up. Henke was a role model for me. He was finishing up at Celtic and about to move to Barcelona. Right after our loss to Senegal in the World Cup, he declared ‘I’m not going to play for the national side any longer. I want to focus on my family.’ Of course, you had to buy it, especially from a guy like him. But he was missed,” said Ibrahimovic.
Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic played together for Sweden for eight years and Ibrahimovic previously said that: “Henrik was good enough to play for any team in Europe. But after playing at Celtic Park it is easy to understand why he chose to stay there for so long.”
Originally published on October 6, 2020.
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