It’s said that Alexander the Great saw his story reflected in the legend of Achilles and that Charles XII of Sweden saw his own in that of Alexander. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a Swedish ruler of men but on the football pitch and he must have experienced the same sensation when he looked at Ronaldo while in a trance during the second derby of the 2006-7 season.
The forward who was then playing for Milan was the idol of his youth. Zlatan grew up in a tough part of Malmö. He’d watch his exploits and dreamt of imitating them and now he was up against him as an opponent for the first (and only) time in his career. There was no time to be distracted by memories though. At the end of the first half the Rossoneri were 1-0 up (thanks to a goal from the Brazilian himself) and it was on Ibrahimovic to carry the team on his shoulders. In the second half, after glancing at his favourite player with a sense of admiration while being ready for the challenge, Zlatan outdid Ronaldo with an assist and a goal, winning the hearts of the Nerazzurri fans after a meeting between top class players.
With the Inter shirt, Ibrahimovic would reach heights not even scaled by O Fenômeno. He won the league three times and was top scorer once. He made his mark on the Nerazzurri successes of those years with pieces of play that disarmed opponents and true sporting masterpieces. One of which was his brace which delivered the club’s 16th Scudetto. On the final day of the 2007-8 season, Inter were drawing 0-0 with Parma while Roma were winning at Catania and set to become champions of Italy. At the start of the second half, Roberto Mancini brought Ibrahimovic on after he’d been out for a month and a half with a knee injury. It was like rubbing the lamp to summon the genie for a wish. Zlatan came on and scored twice to sew the Scudetto to his chest. During the raucous title celebrations, it’s said that all of the players went to thank the Coach. All but one. “You’re welcome,” said Zlatan.