Zlatan Ibrahimovic has delivered a no-holds-barred insight into former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, claiming he “lacks balls” and cannot hold a candle to former Inter Milan and current Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho.
The enigmatic Ibrahimovic, now of PSG, has played under both coaches during his stellar career but, in his new book “I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic”, reveals he could not think less of Guardiola compared to Mourinho.
In an extract provided by the Daily Mail Ibrahimovic writes: "He (Mourinho) is the exact opposite of Pep Guardiola. If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains. Mourinho would become a guy I was basically willing to die for."
The Sweden international spent one season under Mourinho at Inter, scoring 29 goals, before making a €66 million switch to Barcelona.
However, his debut spell at the Camp Nou ended in disappointment as Mourinho’s side came back to haunt Barca, beating them in the 2009/10 Champions League semifinals. According to Ibrahimovic, the blame was laid firmly at his door, as per the Daily Mail:
Guardiola looked at me as if it was all my fault and I thought: ‘That’s it. I’ve played my last card.’ I felt like **** when I sat in the locker room, and Guardiola glared at me as if I was a disturbance, an alien. It was mental.
Ibrahimovic scored 21 goals in his maiden season in Spain, but was often substituted and constantly accused of failing to justify his hefty price tag. The fault, according to the striker, rested with Guardiola, as explained in the Mail:
When we had an away match with Villarreal, he let me play for five minutes. I was seething inside. Guardiola didn’t say a word, not a peep, and now I’d had enough. I could feel it in my whole body, and if I’d been Guardiola, I would’ve been scared.
Yaya Toure was there, and a few others, and then there was the metal box where we put our kit from the match, and I was staring at that box.
Then I gave it a kick. I think it went flying about three metres, but I wasn’t finished yet. Not by a long chalk. I yelled, ‘You haven’t got any balls!’ and worse than that I added, ‘You’re **** yourself in front of Mourinho. You can go to hell!’
I completely lost it, and you might have expected Guardiola to say a few words in response, but he’s a spineless coward. He just picked up the metal box, like a little caretaker, and then left, never to mention it again, not a word.
Ibrahimovic swiftly departed for AC Milan after his one full season in Spain, but not before trying to shake things up a bit by breaking one of Barcelona’s big rules:
When I realised I would be on the bench for a game against Almeria, I remembered that line: ‘Here in Barcelona we don’t turn up to training sessions in Porsches or Ferraris.’ What kind of nonsense was that, anyway?
I’ll take whatever car I want, at least if I can wind up idiots. I jumped in my Enzo [Ferrari], put my foot down on the gas and parked up right in front of the door to the training facility.
Guardiola’s major managerial rivalry during his young career has been with Mourinho, who later took the title off Barcelona with Real Madrid. The pair recently locked horns again when Guardiola’s Bayern Munich beat Mourinho’s Chelsea to the European Super Cup, but Ibrahimovic has no doubt over who is the better manager.
The Mail again provides the extract:
He (Mourinho) works twice as hard as all the rest. He got people to tow the line, and he went up to guys who thought they were untouchable and let them have it.
He got straight to the point: ‘From now on, you do it like this.’ Can you imagine?! And everybody started to listen.
Under Mourinho Ibrahimovic won the Serie A title. When the Portuguese coach left Inter, he was seen crying with defender Marco Materazzi, and Ibrahimovic sheds light on how “the Special One” inspires his troops:
He might show videos where we’d played badly and say: ‘So miserable! Hopeless! Those guys can’t be you. They must be your brothers, your inferior selves,’ and we nodded. We were ashamed.
‘Go out there like hungry lions,’ he added. He gave the flip chart a kick and sent it flying across the room, and the adrenaline pumped inside us, and we went out like rabid animals. People were willing to kill for him.
Ibrahimovic's bullish, take-no-prisoners character was always a better match for Mourinho than Guardiola on paper, and it came as little surprise that his stay at Barcelona was not a long one.
While the Catalans did require a physical presence up front back in 2009, to bolster the lightweight options of Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic and Pedro, Ibrahimovic's flashy style always seemed more suited to the riches of Madrid.
Nevertheless, the Swede's achievements early in his Barca career quickly get overlooked due to the sour way things ended. Ibrahimovic set a Barcelona record by becoming the first man to score in his first four league games for the club and he had soon chalked up seven in seven.
January 2009 saw him named in UEFA's Team of the Year, but Ibrahimovic claims Guardiola did not talk to him from March onwards, coincidentally when he was sent off against Almeria.
Clearly the potential was there for Ibra to do what he has done at so many clubs, scoring goals aplenty at Ajax, Inter Milan, AC Milan and now PSG, but the personality of the club (Barcelona) and the coach (Guardiola) both sought modesty over an arrogant swagger.
Ibrahimovic will now hope to have the opportunity to get one over Guardiola when his PSG side embark on their Champions League campaign this season. The French champions can meet both Bayern and Chelsea in the last 16 if they advance from the Group Stage.