Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 2011 autobiography “I am Zlatan” solidified the Swedish giant as the most quotable footballer in the world. A far cry from the supremely bland autobiographies usually put out by active footballers, Zlatan’s book was even short listed for a prestigious Swedish literary award. But as the book’s ghostwriter now admits, though the sentiment was true, the headline-making quotes were his own creation.
Speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales, ghostwriter David Lagercrantz, who is now writing a continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Girl A Dragon Tattoo Series, said that he knew nothing about football when he first met Zlatan and approached the book as if he were writing a novel, having found other footballer autobiographies to be soul crushingly bland.
From the Telegraph:
“I worked with him very thoroughly. I just asked him about things I didn’t know. Because all the goals I could see for myself, so I didn’t waste time on goals.
“I sat with him for 100 hours and that was quite an adventure. I didn’t lie. I didn’t want to make him better or nicer than he was. I said to him from the beginning, ‘You can’t be moral. Just speak out, for God’s sake.’ […]
“I think it really was his true voice. The key thing is that I was not working as a journalist. I was not quoting him. I know this — if you want to find something that sounds true and authentic, the last thing you want to do is quote. I don’t think I have any real quotes from him. I tried to get an illusion of him, to try and find the story. I tried to find the literary Ibrahimovic.”
Though he was happy with the result, he was still fearful of what would happen after submitting his work for Zlatan’s approval.
The first thing he said was: “What the f — — is this? I never said this!’ But after a while I think he understood what I was trying to do. Nowadays he thinks it’s really his story.”
Of course, just because the exact quotes in the book might not be identical to what was really said by Zlatan himself (it’s also entirely possible that this is an author who thought he was too good for the job trying to get more credit for himself), that doesn’t mean that he isn’t capable of a great line on his own.
“I told him I had just read David Beckham’s book and that was such a boring book, actually. And he had a good answer: ‘Who the f — — is Beckham?’”
This was a couple years before Zlatan and Beckham became teammates at PSG, but he probably would have had the same answer even after that experience.