Originally published in la Gazzetta dello Sport
Every week Football Italiano brings you a translation of one of la Gazzetta dello Sport’s interviews with a major name from the world of Italian football. This time it is the turn of Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic…
APPIANO GENTILE. Yesterday we saw the public side of ‘furious Mourinho’. There’s also another ‘furious Mourinho’ sometimes, only seen by footballers and a small number of other people, usually visible in the changing rooms or nearby, mostly during the half time of a match going badly. It happened in Bergamo ( at half time the score was 3-0 to Atalanta), and it happened again on Sunday evening (at half time 0-2 to Roma). Zlatan Ibrahimovic likes also that Mourinho: he says he’s good for him and perhaps for Inter too. Especially when it comes to the mother of all matches, the one against Manchester United. What is the best thing you found in Mourinho?
“When a match starts you feel more prepared, you’ve got all the information you need. Then it obviously depends on us: he can prepare everything in the best possible way, but it’s us on the pitch, playing to win. Plus I think that the mentality has changed a little: when things are not going well, you can tell he’s not happy and you need to react”.
So you like him because in this he’s similar to you?
“True, you can tell straightaway from my face when I’m pissed off. Let’s say that I’m used to this kind of mentality: I grew up playing for Ajax with Co Aadriaanse, a similar kind of person; then I had Capello, who used to make things very clear. I like a coach that treats me bad sometimes, that uses strong, harsh words, that tells me ‘You were rubbish’. It’s happened before, it works with me”.
In Manchester will you need to do better than the first match in Milan?
“I’m calm, I’m quite confident. We’ll go there and play: they are a great team but so are we and we can do what’s needed to qualify. It won’t be easy, but to win the Champions League you need to win matches like this one”.
You didn’t answer…
“We need to play better, with more confidence: to be united, concentrated, aggressive, to play simple, without making the same mistakes we made in the first leg”.
“It was hard for me and Adriano: too much space between us and the midfielders, at some point we said to each other ‘we must try and stay further forward’. In Manchester we’ll need to have more ball possession, to run better, otherwise you risk to be exhausted after 70 minutes. My game and my skills also include running of course: but running it’s not the main thing”.
Too many long balls?
“It can work sometimes, you can score: I can play like that, and rather well, but it’s not the game I love, my favourite game. Then it depends on the various situations in a match, but I prefer to play more with the rest of the team, to attack all together”.
Would you like to win in Manchester like Porto did in 2004, with a last-minute goal?
“If we score during the first or the last minute it is the same thing: it’d be good either way”.
How much can the game depend on the Old Trafford effect?
“Full stadium, the fans on your back: it can become more difficult, but it’s also nicer, because it’s those atmospheres great players and great teams love”.
Speaking about great players: In England the press wrote that in the first match there was ‘the greatest footballer in the world and the one that thinks he is’…
“I read it: one would be Cristiano Ronaldo and the other one would be me. I read it and I smiled: everybody can write what they like. I know the English don’t like me, I know how much I’m worth and I also know that if I played in England I wouldn’t play badly. Actually I’d rather see how those who are currently playing in England would play if they were to come to Italy”.
Are you referring to Ronaldo?
“I’ve got great respect for Ronaldo, like for all players. That’s the way football is: if you are a great, you just are, and he is. He can play, he won the Ballon d’Or and also other trophies with Manchester United and plus he’s still young: I’m very happy for him”.
Are you jealous of his Ballon d’Or?
“I must keep playing like I am: whether I’ll win it or not, we’ll see at the end. But I do know one thing: if you don’t win with your team, it’s almost impossible that you win on your own. And if the team doesn’t win, it’s very difficult for you to win. Even if you are Maradona”.
And it’s even better if the team wins the Champions League?
“To win, you need to start somewhere, that’s important: Inter, who hadn’t won for a long time, started with 3 championships and now wants to do the same with the Champions League. But I agree with Mourinho: it’s not always the best team that wins the Champions League, but it’s always the best team that wins the Championship. The Championship is longer and harder, the Champions League is quick, either you win or you lose, in two matches.”.
Can you already say you have won the Scudetto, being 7 points ahead of Juventus?
“No, the Championship isn’t over yet and one day you’re 11 points ahead, the next 9 points, the next 7 points: anything can happen. We must keep our concentration while playing, one match at a time, with the same spirit we had in the second half against Roma”.
What Inter did you see then?
“A team that showed their will to win: without mistakes, keeping the game in control, everyone helped each other”.
How come Inter tends to forget playing the first halves?
“There’s no logical explanation. Perhaps it can happen when you win so often: you have a slow start and then you play a wonderful game, or vice-versa. And it can depend on the opposition too, can’t it?”.
Sunday’s opponents had loads to complain about: have you heard De Rossi?
“It’s like this every year: we win, they lose and so they find something to say if they can’t beat us, for now at least”.
It’s not only Roma saying that Inter is helped by the referees.
“I don’t mind: when you are a winning team, there’s always someone talking about help from referees. It was like that also when I was playing for Juventus: everybody was against Juve”.
They also got annoyed by Balotelli: too pretentious, a bit like Ibrahimovic used to be?
“I believe Mario is stronger, more ready to play at high levels than I was when I was 18. Then, it’s true he’s still got to mature: he’s learning a lot, we are all trying to help him and above all he’s got loads of time ahead of him”.
Balotelli and Santon: have they got a great future ahead of them?
“It’s too early to say they’ll be two champions: it takes a couple of goals or a few great matches for everybody to go: ‘Wow, what great players!’. That’s a mistake: you need to do those things for years and then it will be fair for everybody to go: ‘Wow!’”.