Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Wayne Rooney & David Beckham

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic - watch the full interview

He has won nine league titles in the past 10 seasons with five clubs. He is 6ft 5in tall, 31 years old, captains the Swedish national side and has scored 45 times in 93 games for his country, including a wonder goal against England.

He has a black belt in taekwondo, a striking ponytail and an upper torso adorned with tattoos.

He is Zlatan Ibrahimovic - and his first name is copyrighted.

BBC Sport recently sat down with one of the best footballers of this generation. Below, in the striker's own words, you can learn about the mean streets of his childhood, numerous near-transfers to the Premier League and his thoughts on some of the top coaches in the game.

On growing up

I had a great childhood [in the Malmo ghetto of Rosengard] - great neighbourhood, great friends. It was a tough area, yes. We didn't have so many Swedish people, but a lot of foreigners living together. We were always there, we never went out from our so-called ghetto.

We enjoyed our life but as soon as we came outside this area, it felt strange, not like home. When you spoke to people from outside the area, they were scared to come in and we couldn't understand why. "Why are they scared to come in? We really have it made here."

A lot of crazy things happened, things we got adrenalin from. I am not saying it was a good thing to steal a car, but for us it gave us the kicks we needed. I was raised there. I really enjoyed it. It is something that made me into what I am today.

On almost joining Arsenal

The first time I met Arsene Wenger I was still at Malmo. According to the director of football there, I had a lot of clubs following me. And one day he said to me: "We are going to go to Arsenal to meet Wenger."

We went to the training ground and it was amazing, totally different from Malmo. Everything was new - they were building a new [ground].

I met Wenger and we talked. I saw the guys outside the window - Bergkamp, Henry, Wiltord, Bergkamp - I thought to myself 'wow, I am seeing the guys I have seen on television'.

And we were talking, and Wenger had an Arsenal shirt with the number nine and my name on it. I was like 'wow'. When you see something like that you don't care about all the other stuff. In your mind, wearing that shirt and playing with that shirt, that made me happy.

He said he wanted me to come and train to see how good I was. My ego kicked in. I thought: 'I am having a meeting with him and he doesn't know how good I am? What am I doing here.' It became a totally different situation. If someone wants you, to buy you, they know how good you are. But to go there and have a two-week trial was a totally different situation. I said to the Malmo director of football: 'I am here to show him how good I am.' He said that was wrong.

Then we spoke for another 20 minutes and I said: 'Ok, I can go out now and train. Do you have football shoes here? I will go out now.' But the director of Malmo said: 'Calm down, calm down, we will take one step at a time.' We went back to Malmo and then Ajax came on the scene. They said: 'We really want you and we want you now.' That felt more like I was appreciated. They really wanted me. If you tell me 'come here and let's see how good you are', then I was never going to be convinced.

I read a couple of years ago that Wenger said it was a misunderstanding. He said he was trying to say 'come and see how it feels to be here'. That could be, I don't know. I was young and my English wasn't good. That would have been a totally different story.

Arsenal had an amazing team, a fantastic academy, but at the same time they had a first team that was amazing. They won everything, they had champions in that team. I played with a few of them later in my career and I learnt a lot from them. My career could have turned out totally differently.

On almost joining Southampton

They wanted to take me from Ajax after I had a difficult first year. My manager said: 'You go to Southampton.' I said: 'Is that the only option I have?' I had confidence problems and I had a big ego also.

At that time, I thought of Ajax as the top. I had to go somewhere even more at the top. In my mind, I felt that to go from Ajax to Southampton, with all respect to Southampton, I would be taking a step down.

I had patience and continued to train hard. The second year was better, the third year was even better and then Juventus came. I thought 'now we're talking'.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Milan

On English football

I follow it. The player I like is Wayne Rooney. For me, Rooney is a fantastic footballer. I can imagine him playing alongside me.

For me, Rooney is not the player who scores 40 goals a season. But he is the player who helps his partner score lots of goals because he is working for one, two and maybe three other players. It seems like he has a strong mentality to win - like me he doesn't like to lose.

I think crazy things happen around him also. He is an impulsive guy like me. In football no-one is perfect. You learn from your mistakes and I like that with him. He is himself; I think that is very important. That is one English player I like more than anyone.

On that goal against England (when Sweden won 4-2 in November 2012)

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Ibrahimovic goal was work of art - Hodgson

There was always talk about how I don't score against England, how I don't score against English clubs. Negative headlines are part of the job - that is the way it is.

It was triggering me. I got motivated by it. It made me angry. But there are different forms of anger. You can hit someone on the pitch, but I used it in a different way. I said: 'I will go out, enjoy and play my game.'

It was an opening day for a new stadium, played against England - a fantastic game. According to the English journalists, England are the best and that's why they always win. And then I scored - one and then two and then three.

Then a long ball came over and the goalkeeper went out to head the ball. I wanted to continue to run against the goalkeeper. But then I thought I will fake my running against him and go backwards because I know he wants to try to clear the ball far away with his head.

Then when I saw the ball go up, I followed it and I was running backwards knowing the goalkeeper was out and no-one was in the goal. So I thought I will try to hit the goal.

I jumped up, hit the ball. While I was in the air, I was turning around to follow the ball and it goes in. It is nice when you try to do something like that and it comes off. It wasn't only the goal, it was who it was against - England. That made it even better.

On playing with David Beckham at PSG

Zlatan Ibrahimovic at full-time
Ibrahimovic, now 31, plays in the French capital for Paris St-Germain

When Beckham came to Paris St-Germain, he got all the attention. I could finally go on my own way.

As a person, he is amazing. He was shy in the beginning, for the first two months. But after that I really got to know him and we had a fantastic time.

Everybody knows him as a footballer. You read a lot about him, you hear a lot about him. When you meet the real person, I have only positive things to say. The person who has negative things to say is either jealous or hates him. Because there are no negative things to say about him - that is my view.

As a footballer it is important to be yourself and live your life - not to live in a bubble, not enjoying your life. That is what I admire about Beckham. The attention that follows him, is not easy to live out your life. But he does it.

I even told him that I admired him because he brings his children to surfing, to the park. I felt sometimes I would stay at home, because I want to be left alone. But after I saw him, he brought me off the couch and he motivated me to take my family out and do these things. If he can do it, then me, someone with 10% of his attention, can do it.

On Jose Mourinho

I didn't know Mourinho before he came to Inter. I had heard a lot during his time at Chelsea, then he took a break. I heard a lot of stuff, but like I said I didn't want to judge until I got to know him.

When I got to know him, he was amazing. He dragged things out of me that no other coach had done before. When I played I felt like a terminator, I felt so confident under him.

When he had his talk before the game, he made you feel from being a cat to like a lion. When I came out I was so confident in my game. The way he was, the personality he had, we just clicked. There was no question of arguing with him. Everything was flowing in a positive way.

I felt much better as a footballer in my mind and in the way I was playing.

On Fabio Capello

Capello was more of the disciplinarian. When I was playing at Juventus, having come from Ajax, he was like 'I will bang the Ajax system out of you because now you are in Italy, now you have to score goals. I don't care about other things, the dribble. You have to score goals'.

Everyday I worked with his right-hand man, in front of goal. Shoot, shoot, I was tired - I wanted to stop training but he was like Ibra - train, train.

He called over guys from the youth team and we did one-on-ones. That was the discipline. It was win, I don't care how. It was the winning mentality, that is what I got from Capello.

On Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti was also old school but as a person amazing. He was the most fantastic person I had as a coach. I never had a relationship with a coach like the one I had with Ancelotti. I think many players will say that who have been managed by Ancelotti.

He was like my coach, my friend and almost like a father. Not just with me, with all the players.

When he left, we felt sorry, of course. But football is like that. I am very happy for him and I am 100% sure he will be a success with Real Madrid.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was talking to BBC Sport's Ben Smith

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