ROME, February 24 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic has admitted that he would have been prepared to kill for former boss Jose Mourinho, with whom he spent a season at Inter Milan.
Both have since moved on with the big Sweden forward now knocking in the goals for Inter’s cross city rivals AC Milan and the Portuguese coach plotting the Real Madrid resurrection.
But in one season together, Ibrahimovic finished top scorer in Serie A as Inter won what was then a fourth straight Serie A crown.
Mourinho stayed one more year in Milan but Ibrahimovic moved on to Barcelona, where he spent only a year before heading to the rossoneri.
"Given the motivation and stimulation he gave me, I would have killed for Mourinho," said the martial arts black belt, who aimed a dig at Barcelona for not having faith in him.
"In the first six months everything was exceptional, everything was going very well but then something happened, even though I still don’t know what.
"I’m still waiting for an answer but after the first two months of 2010 (Barca coach Pep Guardiola) stopped talking to me.
"If you don’t have someone who motivates you then you’re not prepared to fight and that’s why you have coaches.
"With the other one (Guardiola) the football was there but a coach needs to adapt his football to the players he has, especially if you’ve just spent 70 million euros on one.
"And if you’ve bought him you haven’t bought him to leave him to look at the birds in the trees."
Guardiola spent 50 million euros on Ibrahimovic with Samuel Eto’o — whose value was put at anything upwards of 20 million euros — heading in the other direction.
But while the Cameroon captain has been a major success at Inter, Ibrahimovic’s Barca dream soon turned sour.
And although he won three Serie A titles with Inter, Ibrahimovic insists that Milan are the biggest club in the city.
"I can’t say anything bad about Inter because I had some fantastic times there but I think historically Milan are the bigger club," he said.
"When I arrived here I was presented with a project that revolves around me and I was promised many things that we’re working on.
"It’s a project that’s developping and I think next year will be the right one to fight on all fronts."
Having graced the shirts of Barca, the two Milan clubs, Juventus and Ajax, Ibrahimovic has played with and against almost all the best players of his generation.
And he has no doubt as to who the best was: the recently retired Ronaldo.
"There’s not been anyone better than him in the last 15-20 years," he said.
"If you look back I can’t think of any other players of his and (Zinedine) Zidane’s level.
"For me it was enough just to be on the same pitch as him. I’ve played against many other phenomenal players but there was only one Ronaldo.
"Like (Diego) Maradona said, there are many kings but there’s only one God, and that also goes for Ronaldo."