La Liga - Ibrahimovic: 'Guardiola bullied me'
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has lifted the lid on his extraordinary fall-out with Pep Guardiola, claiming the Barcelona coach "bullied" him and that he responded with a verbal assault in which he accused the Catalan of "having no balls".
In 2009 Ibrahimovic arrived at Barca in a £40 million-plus exchange deal, with Samuel Eto’o going the other way to Internazionale.
The Sweden striker started life at the Camp Nou in fine fashion, scoring seven times in his first seven Liga matches, but his extrovert personality - and the decision to play Lionel Messi in a more central role - resulted in a huge rift with Guardiola.
In his new autobiography, Ibrahimovic accepted some responsibility for the fall-out, but largely blamed Guardiola for ostracising him.
"It was a childhood dream and I was walking on air," Ibrahimovic was quoted as writing in his book by several Swedish newspapers. "It started well but then Messi started to talk.
"He wanted to play in the middle, not on the wing, so the system changed from 4-3-3 to 4-5-1. I was sacrificed and no longer had the freedom on the pitch I need to succeed.
"So I asked for a meeting with Guardiola - for a discussion, not an argument. I said I was being used in the wrong way and that they shouldn’t have bought me if they wanted another type of player.
"I told him what a friend had said to me - 'you bought a Ferrari but drive it like a Fiat'. The chat seemed to go well but then Guardiola started to freeze me out.
"I would walk into a room; he would leave. He would greet everyone by saying hello, but would ignore me.
"I had done a lot to adapt - the Barca players were like schoolboys, following the coach blindly, whereas I was used to asking 'why?' I like guys who run red lights, not pedantic and strict rules. So I tried to be overly nice, didn’t dare lose my temper.
"But after this I stopped trying to adapt. For example, at Barca players were banned from driving their sports cars to training. I thought this was ridiculous - it was no one’s business what car I drive - so in April, before a match with Almeria, I drove my Ferrari Enzo to work. It caused a scene."
Ibrahimovic lost his place to youngster Bojan, currently on loan at Roma, and had all-but accepted he would be on his way out of the club.
He pinpointed the first major row he had with Guardiola, after a 4-1 win against Villarreal during which the former Juventus and Ajax forward only played five minutes.
"(Pep) was staring at me and I lost it. I thought ‘there is my enemy, scratching his bald head’. I yelled to him: ‘You have no balls!’ And probably worse things than that.
"I added: 'You are s****ing yourself because of (then-Internazionale manager Jose Mourinho, whose side beat Barca in the Champions League). You can go to hell!’ I was completely mad.
"I threw a box full of training gear across the room, it crashed to the floor and Pep said nothing, just put stuff back in the box.
"I’m not violent, but if I were Guardiola I would have been frightened."
Ibrahimovic said that, on the advice of his wife, he tried to make peace with Guardiola and fight for his place at the club, despite the purchase of David Villa.
But he claimed that Guardiola was unresponsive, and that the former Spain midfielder would continue to "bully" him, after which a loan move to Milan was arranged.
Ibrahimovic impressed with 14 goals in 28 matches as the Rossoneri won the Serie A title, and has scored seven in nine games in all competitions so far this season.