Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimović is following in the footsteps of another former LA Galaxy player, namely David Beckham. He’s become the owner of a football team and now Ibrahimović has purchased shares in Swedish club Hammarby.
It’s his latest business venture after he also became a part-owner of the popular UK Casino & Sportsbook Bethard. He had received several previous offers to become associated with betting companies but this one was too good to refuse. The fact that the founders of the company hail from Sweden played a big part in his decision to a co-owner and brand ambassador. “They are true challengers who really want to do things differently,” said Ibrahimović.
Ibrahimović was due to help launch the betting company in 2018. However, at that time he was still playing for Manchester United in the English Premier League. They have strict rules regarding any links between players and betting companies. When he moved to the USA to play for LA Galaxy in the MLS, that problem disappeared.
The Swede proved to be a big hit in the MLS. He made an immediate impact for his new team scoring twice on his debut despite only being a substitute. “I heard the crowd saying, ‘We want Zlatan, we want Zlatan’, so I gave them Zlatan,” he said after the game.
In his two seasons playing for them, Ibrahimović played 56 league games scoring 52 goals. His former club Manchester United must have been wondering why they let him leave. His second and final season saw LA Galaxy reach the play-off semi-finals.
Ibrahimović seems to court controversy wherever he goes and there was plenty during his time with LA Galaxy. April of this year saw him accused of foul play by Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha. He described the Swede as “arrogant,” “disrespectful” and ‘a complete thug.” New York City goalkeeper Sean Johnson isn’t a fan either. Ibrahimović was banned for two games after choking him during a game. More trouble followed when he made obscene gestures to Los Angeles FC fans as he left the pitch when losing in the play-offs.
If there is a controversial statement to make, the Swede will make it. He wasn’t a fan of the standard of play in the MLS. In his view, he was “a Ferrari among Fiats” and of course he was “by far the best player” in the league. Zlatan has always held a very high opinion of himself, something to which his wife would testify to, but despite his arrogance, he has always backed it up on the pitch.
He’s no stranger to having a moan about the team he plays for. After a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas in 2018, he was upset about how Galaxy were playing. “Every game we shouldn’t be losing two or three goals and then you have to catch the game and try to win.” He added: “We need to be the leading team and play from there, not to catch the goal all the time, so obviously, it’s not good.” It couldn’t have upset the club that much though as they made him captain for the 2019 season.
Earlier this month he announced on Twitter that he was leaving the American club. Who will he play for next? There had been speculation of a return to European football with either Tottenham, AC Milan or Manchester United. He’d sparked rumours of a return to La Liga where he previously played for Barcelona but then came some surprising news.
It was announced this week that Ibrahimović has bought shares in Swedish club Hammarby. He has purchased a 23.5% share in the club after a deal to acquire half of those owned by AEG who are the main investors in LA Galaxy. He won’t be able to become the majority shareholder. Swedish rules declare that 51% of the voting rights must be controlled by club members.
The 2019 Swedish Allsvenskan season ended recently and Hammarby finished third in the table, a point behind champions Djurgarden. They went through the league season without a home defeat winning 13 out of 15 games. Nine of their last ten league games were won but just failed to win their first title since 2002, their only title success. Finishing in second place was Malmo FF, the hometown of the new Hammarby shareholder.
Will he play for the Swedish side though? Speculation grew when he was pictured on Instagram (he does love his social media) wearing a Hammarby shirt that had his name on its back. Club officials have denied that Ibrahimović will be playing for them next season. Their coach Stefan Billborn said: “I’d be really surprised if Zlatan came to us, I don’t believe it”.
“Hammarby is a fantastic club with passionate supporters and has great respect in both Stockholm and Sweden,” said the former Swedish international. Ibrahimović added that he’d been impressed with their recent performances “both on and off the pitch.” Helping them in the future “feels both fun and exciting,” he said.
The news of his investment hasn’t gone down too well in Malmo. There is a statue of Ibrahimović outside the Malmo FF stadium that was only unveiled last month. He began his career there, scoring 16 goals in 40 games before being transferred to Ajax 18 years ago.
Now they find themselves with a statue of a man who owns part of one of their main rivals in Sweden. No wonder there’s been unrest since the news broke. The statue has been vandalised and paint has been sprayed over it.
There’s been an attempt made to set fire to the 9ft bronze statue. A toilet seat was placed on one of his arms as fans vented their anger at the news. Even worse, there was ‘Judas’ written on the front door of his home in Stockholm. Anyone wondering what the smell was in the area would have discovered it was the fermented fish left on his doorstep.
He has previously been quoted as saying that he’d never play again in the Swedish Allsvenskan. A move to Serie A looks the most likely move for him. He won’t be playing for Tottenham though and a reunion with Jose Mourinho. The new Spurs boss has ruled out a move as he already has Harry Kane. Woe betide Mourinho if Kane suffers a serious injury in the coming months.
Just where he ends up, it’s unlikely to be a quiet time, that just doesn’t happen with Zlatan. The new Swedish season doesn’t begin until March 2020 but how he would manage being a player for one club and be a shareholder in another while also working for Bethard remains to be seen. Another fascinating chapter in his career looks about to begin.