Zlatan Ibrahimovic's long line of controversies on and off the pitch

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shoulder charge on Cesar Azpilicueta is the latest in a long line of controversies to have peppered the Swede’s career… he’s seen red for kung fu kick, lost it with ex-team-mates and even broken ribs in a training ground brawl!

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Sweden’s World Cup play-off semi-final in March 
  • The 40-year-old is suspended after picking up a yellow card against Spain  
  • The striker’s moment of madness saw him shoulder charge Cesar Azpilicueta 
  • It is the latest in a long line of controversial moments throughout his career 

Wherever Zlatan Ibrahimovic goes, controversy is sure to follow. He proved so once again this week with yet more inexplicaable on-field antics.

The Milan striker was caught slamming his shoulder into the back of Cesar Azpilicueta in the final moments of Sweden’s World Cup qualifying defeat by Spain, that confined his country to the play-offs.

While he miraculusly escaped a sending off, his booking does cause sufficient damage, with the 40-year-old now set to miss their play-off semi-final next March. 

It is the latest in a long list of controversies that have landed the Swede in hot water, not all of them happening on the pitch. 

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at some of the striker’s most unedifying moments throughout his career. 

 1. Turning down Arsenal

When it came to taking on the biggest names in the game, Ibrahimovic started early. 

As a promising talent at Malmo, the eyes of Europe’s top clubs came to focus on his progress in Sweden, including those of Arsenal. 

Asked to a trial by Arsene Wenger, Ibrahimovic didn’t take kindly to the invitation.   

‘I didn’t have a trial – I came for talks with Arsenal,’ he revealed after leaving Malmo for Ajax. 

‘But Wenger wanted me to do a trial and I said: “I don’t do trials. You know who I am.”‘

Zlatan Ibrahimovic famously turned down Arsenal after rejecting the notion of having a trial 

2. Showdown with Lukaku

Once team-mates, Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku looked to have lost all camaraderie when facing each other in the Milan derby earlier this year. 

The pair, who once lined up together for Manchester United, found themselves going head-to-head, quite literally, as they squared up to each other at the San Siro. 

The flashpoint – which also saw the Swede reportedly tell the Belgium striker to ‘Go do your voodoo s**t, you little donkey’ – resulted in a fine and a one-match ban for both individuals. 

Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku were involved in a heated bust-up at the San Siro in January

3. Rift with Guardiola 

While Ibrahimovic has picked his fair share of fights during his career, none have been as prolonged as his rift with Pep Guardiola.

Flying at Barcelona before the Spaniard took charge, the striker saw his opportunities diminish before he was farmed out on loan to Milan just 12 months after the head coach’s arrival. 

Zlatan has made it clear in no uncertain terms as to his feelings towards Guardiola, calling him ‘a coward’ and stating that he is ‘not a man’ among numerous other insults.  

Ever since leaving Barcelona, Ibrahimovic has taken every opportunity to taunt Pep Guardiola

4. Sexist comments in Sweden

With his extensive c.v. Ibrahimovic can often give off the impression of someone who is worldly wise. But that doesn’t always prove the case.

The striker found himself making chauvinistic comments at an awards ceremony in 2014, when he took umbridge with being asked to compare himself with women’s footballer Lotta Schelin.

He went on to make matters worse when defending the award of a new car to Anders Svensson after breaking a caps record. When it was suggested women’s star Therese Sjorgan should have received similar for her record-breaking feat, Ibrahimovic suggest a bike with his autograph on it would suffice.  

5. Hammarby investment

Ibrahimovic’s brand of loyalty extends only as far as himself. Malmo fans learned that the hard way last year. 

A club icon, he was honoured with a stadium outside the club’s ground in 2019 to celebrate his contribution to both the club and Sweden on the whole.

The feelgood factor did not last long however, as all goodwill quickly dissipated when Ibrahimovic announced an investment partnership with arch rivals Hammarby.

Needless to say the statue did not last long after that, with fans vandalising it to the point of ruin.  

Malmo fans destroyed a statue dedicated to Ibrahimovic after his partnership with Hammarby

6. Betting company involvement

Ibrahimovic very nearly had his career curtailed earlier this year over an ill-advised investment with a betting company. 

It was suggested that the Swede faced a three-year ban, one that would effectively have ended his playing career, for becoming an ambassador for the Malta-based firm Bethard in 2018. 

Instead, he was handed a lucky escape and a €50,000 (£43,000) fine after being found guilty of breaking UEFA regulations. 

7. His infamous attack on France (and it’s referees)

Ibrahimovic rarely apologises, but he was forced to backtrack once after an incredible outburst during Paris Saint-Germain’s shock defeat by Bordeaux in 2015. 

‘I’ve never seen this in my 15 years playing football. I’ve been playing for 15 years and I’ve never seen [good] refereeing in this s**t country. They don’t even deserve PSG in this country,’ was the Swede’s eloquent rant after the game. 

His words were picked up by supporters and politicians alike, including France’s minister for sport Patrick Kanner, who called for him to apologise.

He did, though not about his opinion on referees.  

Ibrahimovic got into hot water with the French public for comments he made back in 2015

8. Receiving a broken rib from his own team-mate

Known for his feistiness, it isn’t any surprise that Ibrahimovic can come to blows with opponents and team-mates alike.

One of the Swede’s most punishing encounters came during his first stint at Milan, where he came to blows with American Oguchi Onyewu.

The former Newcastle defender took exception to a lunge from the striker, which resulted in the pair coming to blows and Zlatan receiving a cracked rib in the process. 

9. His kung fu kick sending off

A blackbelt in taekwondo, Ibrahimovic has put his martial arts training to good use with some outstanding intuative goals throughout his career. 

He is also guilty of using it in moments of madness, too. This was none more evident than against Saint Etienne in a league clash in 2012.

With no hope of winning the ball against Stephane Ruffier, the Swede left his studs in the chest of the visiting goalkeeper, leaving the referee with no choice but to give Zlatan his marching orders. 

10. His battle woth Tyrone Mings

Going up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it was difficult to tell if Tyrone Mings was being incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.

The pair were involved in a bruising duel that saw the Bournemouth defender appear to deliberately stamp on the Manchester United forward’s head.

Ibrahimovic’s retribution was a less-than-subtle elbow to the side of Mings’ head, an action that resulted in his sending off.  

Ibrahimovic was sent off for an elbow on Tyrone Mings during a bruising Old Trafford clash

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