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Interview

Pole position

UEFA Champions League Magazine has, for the first time, given over an entire TV show to just one player: Zlatan Ibrahimović. We hear from Paolo Menicucci, who was at the Ferrari factory in Maranello to conduct the interview with a man he’s got previous with...

Normally the lead-up to an interview is spent in a dark studio. There’s a bit of stress as the final touches are made to the questions you’re going to ask. But not today. Because today I’m at the legendary Maranello – the home of Ferrari – surrounded by wonderful cars, the smell of petrol and busy engineers dressed head to toe in red.

In the room where we left our bags earlier there was a Formula 1 car literally hanging on the wall, like a Caravaggio. It’s sunny in the little square that Ferrari have called Piazza Michael Schumacher, named after the German driver who led the famous car to championship glory no fewer than five times. 

Talking of champions, we are here waiting for one of them. He’s taking a little time out from his football duties to meet the drivers and get behind the wheel himself. He’ll have a chat with me too – and it won’t be the first time.

When I started my career in sport journalism, back in 2000, I was living in Sweden. And who should be making waves with Malmö in the Superettan – the Swedish second division – but this tall, strong, irreverent forward. You did not need to be a professional scout to know that there was something special about him. Sport round-ups on Swedish television were showing highlights of his incredible goals before they covered those from the top division; sometimes he’d even be featured on the main news.

I had to wait a few years, however, for my first interview with him. By that time he was playing for Inter and we were out on the training pitch, trying to recreate a famous goal he scored for Ajax against Celta in the Champions League. 

After the 40-year-old’s driving experience, it was time for our interview. When I went to grab him, he told me, “Take it easy. I made the Champions League great, not the other way around.” I covered my mouth with my hand and said, “I promise I’m not laughing.” I was, of course – but fortunately he was too.
By

“Tjena Zlatan, hur är läget?” The fact that I was asking after his wellbeing in Swedish not only surprised him, but also helped break the ice. He was already acting very professionally during that interview, but having fun with our crew too – as well as with the Inter academy players who were acting as the Celta defenders for our reconstruction. 

More recently I interviewed the Swede via Zoom, during the long lockdown. “Det var inte igår,” I said – “Long time no see” – which again helped to put him at ease. We went through some of his Instagram posts during the interview; his comments were always very entertaining. “Who is less likely to be tamed, Zlatan or a lion?” I asked. “Zlatan, 100%,” he quickly replied. “You can tame a lion; you cannot tame Zlatan. It’s a different animal.” 

At the Ferrari factory in Maranello this time around, our third encounter, we talked and joked a lot. I must confess that I’m no Formula 1 expert and when he asked me some questions behind the scenes, more often than not I had no answers. “Boss, you know nothing,” he told me after a while, with a smile. Fortunately, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, plus drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc, were all on site. They were much better placed to feed his genuine curiosity.

After the 40-year-old’s driving experience, it was time for our interview. When I went to grab him, he told me, “Take it easy. I made the Champions League great, not the other way around.” I covered my mouth with my hand and said, “I promise I’m not laughing.” I was, of course – but fortunately he was too.

Too soon our interview came to an end. Normally I don’t ask players for selfies but this time was an exception; Zlatan is a legend, after all. “I heard you are desperate to have a picture with me,” I told him. He laughed again, smiled at the camera and said, “Hey, I made your day with this photo, right?” 

WORDS Sheridan Bird
The show, our review

Zlatan Ibrahimović sits among a plethora of supercars. “I have made the ten-year-old Zlatan proud, like the ten-year-old me made me proud.” He’s got a point: infant Ibra would be beside himself with excitement to be a guest of honour at Ferrari HQ at Maranello.

From the moment the Swede is welcomed by Ferrari’s surprisingly tall chief Mattia Binotto, prancing horse-adorned creations engulf your eyes and ears. You don’t need to be a petrol head to appreciate the grace and sounds of the hardware on show. When F1 pilota Carlos Sainz takes Ibrahimović for a spin, the Milan striker giggles nervously as the Spaniard tests the speedometer. So, Ibra does get anxious sometimes…

In parallel to the high-velocity feats, we get a recap of Zlatan’s career through wonderful archive clips. We take in his early days (and haircuts) in Sweden, as well as Ajax, both Milanese clubs, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.

Most interestingly, we are occasionally treated to a less bombastic version of the 40-year-old. Perhaps even he feels humbled sitting in a hangar of such legendary cars, because that faux-arrogance briefly disperses. “Everything is destiny – you can’t go back and regret things, you keep going,” says Ibrahimović. At the end, rising star Charles Leclerc gives him a lift home; a fittingly prestigious end to a high-octane day.

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Interview

Pole position

UEFA Champions League Magazine has, for the first time, given over an entire TV show to just one player: Zlatan Ibrahimović. We hear from Paolo Menicucci, who was at the Ferrari factory in Maranello to conduct the interview with a man he’s got previous with...

Normally the lead-up to an interview is spent in a dark studio. There’s a bit of stress as the final touches are made to the questions you’re going to ask. But not today. Because today I’m at the legendary Maranello – the home of Ferrari – surrounded by wonderful cars, the smell of petrol and busy engineers dressed head to toe in red.

In the room where we left our bags earlier there was a Formula 1 car literally hanging on the wall, like a Caravaggio. It’s sunny in the little square that Ferrari have called Piazza Michael Schumacher, named after the German driver who led the famous car to championship glory no fewer than five times. 

Talking of champions, we are here waiting for one of them. He’s taking a little time out from his football duties to meet the drivers and get behind the wheel himself. He’ll have a chat with me too – and it won’t be the first time.

When I started my career in sport journalism, back in 2000, I was living in Sweden. And who should be making waves with Malmö in the Superettan – the Swedish second division – but this tall, strong, irreverent forward. You did not need to be a professional scout to know that there was something special about him. Sport round-ups on Swedish television were showing highlights of his incredible goals before they covered those from the top division; sometimes he’d even be featured on the main news.

I had to wait a few years, however, for my first interview with him. By that time he was playing for Inter and we were out on the training pitch, trying to recreate a famous goal he scored for Ajax against Celta in the Champions League. 

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After the 40-year-old’s driving experience, it was time for our interview. When I went to grab him, he told me, “Take it easy. I made the Champions League great, not the other way around.” I covered my mouth with my hand and said, “I promise I’m not laughing.” I was, of course – but fortunately he was too.
By

“Tjena Zlatan, hur är läget?” The fact that I was asking after his wellbeing in Swedish not only surprised him, but also helped break the ice. He was already acting very professionally during that interview, but having fun with our crew too – as well as with the Inter academy players who were acting as the Celta defenders for our reconstruction. 

More recently I interviewed the Swede via Zoom, during the long lockdown. “Det var inte igår,” I said – “Long time no see” – which again helped to put him at ease. We went through some of his Instagram posts during the interview; his comments were always very entertaining. “Who is less likely to be tamed, Zlatan or a lion?” I asked. “Zlatan, 100%,” he quickly replied. “You can tame a lion; you cannot tame Zlatan. It’s a different animal.” 

At the Ferrari factory in Maranello this time around, our third encounter, we talked and joked a lot. I must confess that I’m no Formula 1 expert and when he asked me some questions behind the scenes, more often than not I had no answers. “Boss, you know nothing,” he told me after a while, with a smile. Fortunately, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, plus drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc, were all on site. They were much better placed to feed his genuine curiosity.

After the 40-year-old’s driving experience, it was time for our interview. When I went to grab him, he told me, “Take it easy. I made the Champions League great, not the other way around.” I covered my mouth with my hand and said, “I promise I’m not laughing.” I was, of course – but fortunately he was too.

Too soon our interview came to an end. Normally I don’t ask players for selfies but this time was an exception; Zlatan is a legend, after all. “I heard you are desperate to have a picture with me,” I told him. He laughed again, smiled at the camera and said, “Hey, I made your day with this photo, right?” 

WORDS Sheridan Bird
The show, our review

Zlatan Ibrahimović sits among a plethora of supercars. “I have made the ten-year-old Zlatan proud, like the ten-year-old me made me proud.” He’s got a point: infant Ibra would be beside himself with excitement to be a guest of honour at Ferrari HQ at Maranello.

From the moment the Swede is welcomed by Ferrari’s surprisingly tall chief Mattia Binotto, prancing horse-adorned creations engulf your eyes and ears. You don’t need to be a petrol head to appreciate the grace and sounds of the hardware on show. When F1 pilota Carlos Sainz takes Ibrahimović for a spin, the Milan striker giggles nervously as the Spaniard tests the speedometer. So, Ibra does get anxious sometimes…

In parallel to the high-velocity feats, we get a recap of Zlatan’s career through wonderful archive clips. We take in his early days (and haircuts) in Sweden, as well as Ajax, both Milanese clubs, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.

Most interestingly, we are occasionally treated to a less bombastic version of the 40-year-old. Perhaps even he feels humbled sitting in a hangar of such legendary cars, because that faux-arrogance briefly disperses. “Everything is destiny – you can’t go back and regret things, you keep going,” says Ibrahimović. At the end, rising star Charles Leclerc gives him a lift home; a fittingly prestigious end to a high-octane day.

Interview

Pole position

UEFA Champions League Magazine has, for the first time, given over an entire TV show to just one player: Zlatan Ibrahimović. We hear from Paolo Menicucci, who was at the Ferrari factory in Maranello to conduct the interview with a man he’s got previous with...

Normally the lead-up to an interview is spent in a dark studio. There’s a bit of stress as the final touches are made to the questions you’re going to ask. But not today. Because today I’m at the legendary Maranello – the home of Ferrari – surrounded by wonderful cars, the smell of petrol and busy engineers dressed head to toe in red.

In the room where we left our bags earlier there was a Formula 1 car literally hanging on the wall, like a Caravaggio. It’s sunny in the little square that Ferrari have called Piazza Michael Schumacher, named after the German driver who led the famous car to championship glory no fewer than five times. 

Talking of champions, we are here waiting for one of them. He’s taking a little time out from his football duties to meet the drivers and get behind the wheel himself. He’ll have a chat with me too – and it won’t be the first time.

When I started my career in sport journalism, back in 2000, I was living in Sweden. And who should be making waves with Malmö in the Superettan – the Swedish second division – but this tall, strong, irreverent forward. You did not need to be a professional scout to know that there was something special about him. Sport round-ups on Swedish television were showing highlights of his incredible goals before they covered those from the top division; sometimes he’d even be featured on the main news.

I had to wait a few years, however, for my first interview with him. By that time he was playing for Inter and we were out on the training pitch, trying to recreate a famous goal he scored for Ajax against Celta in the Champions League. 

After the 40-year-old’s driving experience, it was time for our interview. When I went to grab him, he told me, “Take it easy. I made the Champions League great, not the other way around.” I covered my mouth with my hand and said, “I promise I’m not laughing.” I was, of course – but fortunately he was too.
By

“Tjena Zlatan, hur är läget?” The fact that I was asking after his wellbeing in Swedish not only surprised him, but also helped break the ice. He was already acting very professionally during that interview, but having fun with our crew too – as well as with the Inter academy players who were acting as the Celta defenders for our reconstruction. 

More recently I interviewed the Swede via Zoom, during the long lockdown. “Det var inte igår,” I said – “Long time no see” – which again helped to put him at ease. We went through some of his Instagram posts during the interview; his comments were always very entertaining. “Who is less likely to be tamed, Zlatan or a lion?” I asked. “Zlatan, 100%,” he quickly replied. “You can tame a lion; you cannot tame Zlatan. It’s a different animal.” 

At the Ferrari factory in Maranello this time around, our third encounter, we talked and joked a lot. I must confess that I’m no Formula 1 expert and when he asked me some questions behind the scenes, more often than not I had no answers. “Boss, you know nothing,” he told me after a while, with a smile. Fortunately, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, plus drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc, were all on site. They were much better placed to feed his genuine curiosity.

After the 40-year-old’s driving experience, it was time for our interview. When I went to grab him, he told me, “Take it easy. I made the Champions League great, not the other way around.” I covered my mouth with my hand and said, “I promise I’m not laughing.” I was, of course – but fortunately he was too.

Too soon our interview came to an end. Normally I don’t ask players for selfies but this time was an exception; Zlatan is a legend, after all. “I heard you are desperate to have a picture with me,” I told him. He laughed again, smiled at the camera and said, “Hey, I made your day with this photo, right?” 

WORDS Sheridan Bird
The show, our review

Zlatan Ibrahimović sits among a plethora of supercars. “I have made the ten-year-old Zlatan proud, like the ten-year-old me made me proud.” He’s got a point: infant Ibra would be beside himself with excitement to be a guest of honour at Ferrari HQ at Maranello.

From the moment the Swede is welcomed by Ferrari’s surprisingly tall chief Mattia Binotto, prancing horse-adorned creations engulf your eyes and ears. You don’t need to be a petrol head to appreciate the grace and sounds of the hardware on show. When F1 pilota Carlos Sainz takes Ibrahimović for a spin, the Milan striker giggles nervously as the Spaniard tests the speedometer. So, Ibra does get anxious sometimes…

In parallel to the high-velocity feats, we get a recap of Zlatan’s career through wonderful archive clips. We take in his early days (and haircuts) in Sweden, as well as Ajax, both Milanese clubs, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.

Most interestingly, we are occasionally treated to a less bombastic version of the 40-year-old. Perhaps even he feels humbled sitting in a hangar of such legendary cars, because that faux-arrogance briefly disperses. “Everything is destiny – you can’t go back and regret things, you keep going,” says Ibrahimović. At the end, rising star Charles Leclerc gives him a lift home; a fittingly prestigious end to a high-octane day.

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