Malm – Zlatan Ibrahimovic unveiled a bronze statue of himself on Tuesday near the stadium where he launched his professional career in his hometown of Malmo.
“No matter where you come from, where you are, no matter what you look like, the statue is the symbol that anything is possible,” said Sweden’s best-known footballer, visibly moved to see himself permanently represented “where it all began”.
Ibrahimovic, who had a stint with Paris Saint-Germain, already has an effigy at the Grevin wax museum in the French capital.
He had been waiting for his statue in Sweden for five years. The work, created by Swedish sculptor Peter Linde, is impressive. Ibrahimovic stands 1.95m (6ft 5in) tall. The sculpture is 2.7 metres high and weighs 500kg.
Ibrahimovic, whose parents emigrated from the former Yugoslavia, grew up in difficult conditions in Rosengard, a neighbourhood in Malmo known for violent clashes between rival gangs.
He played for Malmo, then Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG and Manchester United before moving to the LA Galaxy. He developed a reputation as a player who won league titles, collecting 13 in 16 seasons in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France, although one, with Juventus, has since been rescinded.
His Galaxy team have made the MLS playoffs and face Minnesota in the first round on October 20.
Ibrahimovic dominated the Swedish national team from 2001 to 2016, winning 116 caps and scoring 62 goals.
He remains an icon in his hometown.
“He is one of us. He comes from Rosengard and has become the king of football,” said Jaafar, who grew up in the area and came up to approach his idol.
Ibrahimovic, who is famous for his bombastic, possibly tongue in cheek, declarations, said before leaving PSG that he would stay if the club owners could persuade the city to “change the Eiffel Tower for my statue”.
“A World Cup without me is nothing to watch, so it is not worth waiting for the World Cup,” he said when Sweden failed to qualify for the 2014 finals.