Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played for some of the world’s biggest football clubs, but apparently the Swedish legend doesn’t count Manchester United among them as he hit out at their ‘small mentality’.
Ibrahimovic, 40, moved to the Premier League giants from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2016, plundering an impressive 28 goals in his debut campaign with the Red Devils before a knee injury brought a premature end to his second season and an inevitable move to sunnier climes in Los Angeles.
But amid all the giants of club football that Zlatan graced (and that’s exactly how he’d put it) throughout his career – Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and so on – his time at Manchester United left him feeling that the club had a small mentality, when he discovered that his paycheck had been docked £1 ($1.30)… for taking a carton of fruit juice from a communal fridge during an away trip.
Writing in his new book ‘Adrenaline’, Ibra said that he was surprised to learn that “one of the richest and most powerful [clubs] in the world” had the gall to ask him to reimburse the costs of said fruit juice.
“One thing surprised me: everyone thinks of United as a top club, one of the richest and most powerful in the world and seen from the outside it looked that way to me,” he wrote. “But once I was there I found a small, closed mentality.”
Zlatan details a few incidents which led him to question if the Red Devils indeed remained a club of the type of magnitude that he expected, but it was the fruit juice episode which clearly appears to have been the most jarring, commanding several passages in the book.
“One day I was in the hotel with the team before a game. I got thirsty so I opened the mini-bar and had a fruit juice,” an apparently irate Zlatan recalled.
“We played and then went home. Some time went by. My pay slip arrives. Normally I don’t look at it. I only do so at the end of the year to see what’s come in and what’s gone out. But that time, I don’t know why, I was curious and realized they’d taken a pound off my monthly wage.
“I called the team manager: ‘Excuse me, why have they taken a pound off my salary.’ The team manager had a look and told me: ‘It was the fruit juice from the mini-bar.’ ‘Are you kidding, seriously?’ ‘No, I’m not. Here, if you order something you have to pay for it.’
“‘Sure, but I didn’t go to the hotel on my own accord. I wasn’t on holiday. It was my work place. I was there for Manchester. If I have to play and I’m thirsty, I have to drink. I can’t go on the pitch dehydrated.’
“Can you believe it? A quid? Something like that would never happen in Italy. These are the details that make a difference and earn the respect of the players.“
A 2017 report from Sky Sports indicated that Zlatan made as much as £19 million per season while employed as a Manchester United player – however the fruit juice incident would have docked him down to a less impressive sounding £18,999,999. And that’s before the taxman was paid his due.
The querying over the fruit juice fee was far from the only instance of the Swede’s now infamous ego letting loose on Old Trafford, with another such clash coming after a few run-ins with an overly-officious security guard.
“Every day I was asked to show my papers just to get into the training ground,” he explained. “I’d lower my window and say to the person at the gate: ‘Listen my friend I’ve been coming here every day for a month. I’m the best player in the world. If you still don’t recognize me, you’re in the wrong job.’”
While Ibrahimovic’s status as the self-described best player in the world at the time could certainly have been challenged by more than a few of his peers, the results on the pitch were beyond reproach as he helped the club to a Europa League, a League Cup and a Community Shield – with the post-Zlatan era showing precisely zero silverware in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet.