Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of Europe’s deadliest strikers during his time on the continent.
Love him or loath him, you can’t deny the talent the enigmatic Swede possesses.
The 37-year-old recently claimed it was his days at Juventus, in particular the training sessions, where he was sculpted into the mercurial talent we know of today.
Zlatan was training alongside the likes of John Heitinga and Maarten Stekelenburg in his formative years at Ajax.
The Swede was surrounded by decent players, but nothing like the level he would later come up against in training after his move to Turin.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Ibrahimovic revealed that the ‘big players’ he faced every day held the key in turning him into the devastating striker we saw dominate Europe’s top leagues for many years.
Zlatan explained how three particular Juventus legends gave him the perfect preparation for the big games, stating: ‘I had that luck that I had Gianluigi Buffon as a training partner.
In front of him was Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro.”
Not exactly a walk in the park.
Zlatan recalls his games against AC Milan – who had Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta in defence – and said: “you only get a half chance and behind them you have Dida.”
Yet Ibramiovic was prepared for the challenge against AC’s decorated defensive unit as he had been training every day with some of the very best.
Ibrahimovic’s training got no easier when he moved to Inter Milan in 2006 with Javier Zanetti and Julio Cesar waiting to test the Swedish striker.
Following his time at Inter, he moved to Barcelona where Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique would have offered equally difficult training sessions.
When Zlatan arrived at AC in 2010 he lined up alongside Nesta – the old foe – and Thiago Silva who presented a new challenge for the ever-green Ibrahimovic.
Following his trophy-laden spell at PSG, where he was free to go ‘full Zlatan’ safe in the knowledge that Silva and Marquinhos would clean up any mistakes, came something completely different.
Phil Jones, anyone?
Having been through the ringer day in, day out for 12 years, what a relief it must have been for the 11 time Swedish Player of the Year when he arrived at Old Trafford.
Greeted with the sight of Marcus Rojo trying to do his laces up and Jones attempting more than three kick-ups before training.
A well earned break I’d say.
While the defenders won’t have offered much, David De Gea will have put him through his paces in training.
All those challenges will have improved the not-so gracious Ibramhimovic to become the monster he was.
To beat the best, you really ought to train with the best.
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