Pep Guardiola expressed his respect for Manchester United forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, despite the latter calling him a “spineless coward” in his autobiography released a few years ago. Ibrahimovic signed for Guardiola and Barcelona back in 2009 to become the second most expensive transfer of all time, behind Cristiano Ronaldo who signed for Real Madrid in the same summer. The forward started his Barcelona career well, scoring on his La Liga debut against Sporting. But over the next few months, the relationship between the manager and player deteriorated, with suggestions that Lionel Messi wanted to play through the middle, rather than out wide – which of course then limited Ibrahimovic’s appearances towards the end of his Barcelona career.
Ibrahimovic only stayed a single season at the Nou Camp as he was out on loan at AC Milan the following season. Sweden’s all time top goal scorer goes face to face this afternoon with his former boss in the Manchester derby.
The new Manchester city boss experiences his first taste of the Manchester derby when he travels to Old Trafford later on and the Spaniard will be without talisman Sergio Aguero, who is serving the first of a three match ban. Guardiola was quick to state that he always spoke to Ibrahimovic “face to face”, but was full of admiration for his impact at any club that he signs for:
“Ibrahimovic used his book to explain what he believes, he had some things to say. Always I was clear. Whatever I said to him I spoke face to face. I never used the media to explain what I wanted from him on the pitch. I have a lot of respect for Zlatan and what he has done in the football world and his career. He has had a big impact everywhere he has been and he is an amazing talent, one of the best around. The best players always have an impact. The big players always bring their talent to a club immediately. You can see they don’t need time to adapt to a new league or understand another country.”