This is part two of our Podcast-special about Zlatan. This story is not a simple football fairy tale, but a reconstruction of the sometimes difficult path that the striker had to walk to become the big star he is today.
In the first episode, guest presenter Sam van Raalte and a few others who worked alongside the Swede focussed on the striker's arrival in Amsterdam and his first season in an Ajax shirt. In this edition, the podcast continues in summer 2002.
Ajax's new number nine
Zlatan has moved up the pecking order and has become Ajax's number nine. In the UEFA Champions League, the Swede scores twice against Olympique Lyon.
The striker has proved himself not only in Europe, but also in the Eredivisie. For the first time, he is the preferred player, over fellow striker Mido. The Egyptian departs in the winter of that season. The Swede, however, just keeps getting better and better. He scores 21 goals without Ajax winning any titles that season. It wasn't until the year after that Zlatan was crowned real king of the Amsterdam strikers. Ajax takes the championship and Ibrahimovic is the main star.
Nevertheless, as Endt explains in the podcast, there are a few issues. A new group of Ajax footballers such as Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart are vying for attention. With their genuine, Amsterdam bravado. The Swede cannot tolerate their behaviour. "It irritated him. Zlatan thought these youngsters knew nothing about real life. Van der Vaart became one of the fans' favourite players. And that didn't go down too well with Zlatan."
'The perfect goodbye'
In the summer of 2004, things came to a head; the transfer deadline was on the horizon. Ajax played at home against NAC Breda, and it was to be Ibrahimovic’s last game for the Amsterdam club. But he certainly departed in style. After an astonishing solo effort during which he ducked and dived between five defenders, Zlatan scored to take the scoreline to 5-1.
"It was the perfect goodbye. A huge statement. Only the biggest players could score a goal at a moment like that", concludes Endt.
One week later, he was gone. The striker would later end up at Inter, via Juventus. There, he encountered his former teammate Maxwell again. In the podcast, the Brazilian talks about their friendship. "Zlatan is loyal; to his football team, his family and the people he loves.”
Finally, Endt reflects on the development of the top striker. "We helped him take the most significant steps towards becoming 'Golden Zlatan'. That makes me, and the whole club, feel immensely proud."
The episode is now only available on JUKE and the Ajax channels, and will be on all the other podcast apps too as of Monday afternoon.
On JUKE, you can also listen back to all the other episodes of the Ajax Podcast.