JE Zlatan, tu Zlatan, il Zlatan. Chalk up another first for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the only footballer to have his own verb in French, the language of Moliere.
The 17th century playwright would doubtless have been shocked and horrified. Perhaps as shocked and horrified as some French were to learn, depending on which newspaper they read, that Paris Saint-Germain lured its star to France from Italy this summer with an after-tax salary of anywhere between 9 million and 14 million euros per year ($ 11.5 million to $ 18 million) — unheard of in the French league and politically incorrect in the middle of biting economic crisis.
Still, it is possible to be both revolted and fascinated at the same time. The French are learning that from Ibrahimovic, too. One French television show plays the Darth Vader theme music when it reports on Ibrahimovic, reinforcing the idea that he’s scary, powerful and can bring entire galaxies — sorry, I meant opposing teams — to their knees.
The popular comedy show Les Guignols de l’Info now also regularly features an Ibrahimovic puppet, a dubious honor it tends to inflict on presidents, politicians and pop culture stars. It goes without saying that the latex Ibrahimovic, like the man, adores himself. In one sketch, the puppet touts a cologne, Eau de Zlatan, “made from concentrated Zlatan sweat. “
“If you Zlatan yourself with Eau de Zlatan everyone will respect you. You’ll no longer need to queue at the post office.”
All of which tells us two things. One is that Ibrahimovic, from a troubled immigrant neighborhood in Malmo, Sweden, with a Croatian mother and Bosnian father, makes an impression wherever he goes, both with his football skills and me-first personality. The other is that French club football needed a character like him for people to start paying attention. Separately, neither of those things are news. It is no secret that France has the weakest of Europe’s top five leagues. And Ibrahimovic’s talents have long made him one of football’s hottest properties. However, combine them together and the result is proving very interesting: A very big fish making massive waves, in part because he has chosen to swim in a smaller pond.