“Number 10 is not the shirt you wear. Number 10 is something you are.”
29 years ago, a little boy with big dreams stood for the first time on a football pitch.
From that moment on, he has been told that he does not play the game as it is supposed to be played.
That he says things that should not to be said. That he must adapt, otherwise it is impossible to succeed.
After 15 years on the pitch he chose to take off the national team shirt.
But his heart still beats for Swedish football as strong as ever.
Now it’s time to find the next Number 10.
In 2017 Zlatan, Volvo and the Swedish Football Association will start – Number 10.
A tribute to those people who, in their own way, give their hearts to bring Swedish football into the future.
Those with the willpower, those who never give up. Those who listen, but also choose their own path.
Volvo Torslanda, Gothenburg Zlatan Ibrahimović meets Jan Gradvall
Welcome! Thank you!
Why are you and Volvo doing this?
We are doing this because we want to find the next Number 10 and to help that person take it further into the future.
We think it’s a good initiative and we stand for what we do.
Who could be the next Number 10?
The way I understand it, it does not necessarily have to be a football player.
No, it will be someone who stands out
Someone who is willing to do anything to get where they want to be.
Someone willing to sacrifice like I did.
We are going to go out and find that certain someone.
This is a scholarship for someone who may need help.
If you could go back in time to when you were young, what help would you have wanted then?
Having people around me that pushed me on
Making me feel welcome and accepting me for who I was.
I feel that I have made a difference and opened doors for those who feel the same way.
The next Number 10 will be the one prepared to do everything I did and more.
How did you feel back then?
I felt like an outsider.
I was not welcomed, it was me against everyone else.
Sitting with the team in the locker room,
I felt I had to be ten times better than the next guy to get noticed.
I had to struggle and mentally think that I had to be that much better.
I remember receiving the Guldbollen award and saying I felt I needed to be ten times better.
That’s the way it was when I was younger.
To succeed, I need to be ten times better than everyone else.
I felt like everyone was against me,
Because of where I came from, my name and everything else. But I kept fighting.
Giving up was not an alternative.
At times I felt like I was finished. But that didn’t last long.
Then I told myself “I will succeed, whatever it takes, I will succeed.”
And now I can sit here and proudly say that.
Have you thought about that time, now that you and Volvo are creating Number 10?
Very much so. And that is exactly why we have created this.
We want to find people in that situation, people who want to be seen but are not noticed.
People who need the help and strive to succeed.
This is very positive and that’s a big deal. I am very proud, happy and grateful for this.
Looking back in football history, many legendary players like Pelé,
Maradona and Zidane have worn number 10.
Apart from football, what defines a good number 10?
To me, number 10 is the star. The one who makes the difference, gets noticed, wins the matches.
and is the leader.
And I see myself in that position.
But it is not something that is not given to you,
it is just something you are.
That’s just the way it is.
Can you be a Number 10 outside the pitch as well?
Of course. What you stand for on the pitch, you also take with you outside the game.
You can be the leader. You can use your self-confidence to make a difference.
There are many things you can do.
Now you’ve been injured for quite some time. But still you got Number 10 with Manchester United. How does that feel?
To be honest, it is like a trigger for me coming back from that injury.
Because I wore number 10 on the Swedish National Team and in PSG.
I would have worn it in Inter, but I soon moved to Barcelona.
I wanted it in Milan but took another number out of respect.
In Ajax I didn’t have it.
I feel like a ten and I stand for number 10.
t’s the symbol of the Swedish National Team.
It will go down in history that I always had number 10.
Does someone call and say: “You get number 10?” and how does that feel?
No one calls you. When I come to a club, it should be in the contract that I will have number 10.
But it depends on who has number 10.
In Manchester United it was Rooney. He’s a legend and someone I respect.
But now he has changed clubs.
Lukaku called and asked: “Can I get number 9?” and I said: “No problem”,
because I already had number 10. That’s the way it happened.
No one says “10 is available”.
In my case, when I join a new team, I get number 10.
Because I feel like a number 10.
You seem to like Lukaku, but you have not played together yet.
In another interview, you mentioned him as one of your favorite players.
Yes, I was asked who I thought was good in the league and I mentioned Lukaku.
He is physically strong,
and he makes a lot of goals.
Every team needs players like that.
I’m glad he is in United. I think he will help us a lot, and he already has in just a short time.
here are moments when you are not strong, like in the match against Anderlecht.
Can you describe what happened?
It was in the closing seconds.
I tried to take down a ball with my chest and timed the landing wrong.
I stuck my legs out and landed completely wrong. The leg went backwards and then it was pulled out
I have never been hurt, but then I felt I swallowed my tongue.
It was a strange feeling that I had never known before.
I told myself it’s just a bang up. But when I got up,
I felt that the leg was not in balance.
In the locker room they started to check the leg.
But without an X-ray it was impossible to say exactly what the problem was.
t turned out to be a cruciate ligament injury, and that’s no secret.
Being injured, thoughts started spinning in my head. What’s happening?
t’s a month before the season is over.
I am 35 years old, what can I do? What does the future hold?[
Instead of just focusing at one thing at a time, like normally,
a lot of things were spinning around in my mind.
The first thing I said to myself was, giving up is not an alternative.
have come this far,
and will finish on my terms, not anyone else’s.
I will stop when I want, in the way I want.
Since then I have been in rehab training. I’m determined to return,
better and stronger than before.
That is my goal,
and it will happen. There are no other options.
Thoughts started to spin in your head and you understood the seriousness.
What number 10 qualities did you use to deal with these feelings?
I was not going to let this injury stop me.
Whatever they say, that he is finished, that he will not be able to make it, that he’s too old.
hat kind of talk has been around throughout my career.
He’s not good enough,
it will not work. He’s this, he’s that.
All that went through my head.
But it’s not going to stop me. It’s me against everyone else.
The will to get better, wanting to do more, never giving up.
Daring to take it to new places where there are no limits.
These are some of the number 10 qualities.
How did your sons react to seeing you injured? They have only seen you as strong, stronger, strongest.
Now they saw you at a moment of weakness.
If they see me as strong, they think that they are stronger than me. That’s exactly how they work.
They are better than me. They are stronger than me.
In our family, it’s not about the football player Ibrahimović. He’s kept outside.
My sons are just as important, if not more important, than me in our family.
They are the future. I’m just doing it for them, so that they can take it further.
When they play football, I may try to guide them: “Try to shoot it like that!”
But then they will say: “You can’t shoot, because you’re injured!”
It’s more on that level,
that they’re teasing me.
But that’s good.
I am their dad and they are Maximilian and Vincent.
They have their own stories. That’s how we work.
Since number 10 is a mental attitude,
perhaps it will teach them things about how to think when people start talking?
Keep in mind that you are strong, that you believe in yourself.
It’s up to you and what you want and how far you want to take it.
These are details, but they are important details.
You build yourself by what you do.
I’m not saying that it’s a one man show, sometimes you need help.
Over time I have learned that you need positive energy around you.
Try to get rid of all negativity as soon as possible.
It only creates irritation. It’s a waste of time. And it takes power away from you.
If you have a sour apple around you, get rid of that apple.
These are also features of number 10,
Believing in yourself, and starting to think differently,
It gets realistic.
Like a kind of magical thinking?
Yes, but it’s not something you get right away.
Looking at what I’ve been through it’s hard for someone else who may not have been there.
It’s at the beginning that you need that push.
That is why we have taken this initiative with number 10.
Maybe people have already done something. We help them move that into the future.
It sounds simple, but it’s not that easy.
You have several tattoos that mean different things to you.
Have you done any new tattoos in connection with the injury?
No, no no.
But I’ve got new scars that could be called tattoos.
I have become a bit scared here and there.
But it’s okay because they will be memories for life. I’ll always remember what happened, what I’ve gone through,
and what I’ve been fighting for.
It’s been 18 weeks since the surgery.
I remember being on crutches and lying in bed for 12 hours a day.
Feeling paralyzed when you’re used to playing and exercising every day.
I am the kind of person who has always trained a lot.
Hard work gives you something in return.
That’s my philosophy.
Now, you have to remember that I was here. And when I got injured I ended up here.
From being 200 percent active to not being able to do anything.
It all happened so fast.
The scars make me realize what I’m going through, what I’ve gone through, and what’s going to happen.
What do you do when you are lying in bed for 12 hours?
What can you do? Not much. At first, I slept a lot.
I was helped by my physician, for whom I am very grateful.
My agent was there. My family was there.
They gave me all the help I needed.
In these situations, you learn who is closest to you, and who is not.
I’m 35, and I know how it works in football.
So, nothing was news to me when things happened that were not okay.
I was prepared and ready to tackle them.
You are interested in MMA and martial arts and have used those skills to develop football. You have done things no one thought could be done on a football pitch.
I understand that it has a lot to do with mental strength.
Have you been able to use that way of thinking now?
Mentally, you must accept that it will take time.
Have patience and continue training at the pace the situation requires.
I watched TV all the time and saw how everyone else was playing.
I saw my own team play and I wanted to be there.
And I’ve been there for 15 years. This was the first time I had a major injury.
So, it was all new to me.
But day by day, I learn, and I grow stronger every day.
A strong mental attitude is number one in this situation.
I can’t influence things physically,
but I can influence them mentally and that’s where I’m strong.
When I’ve decided to do something, nothing is going to change my mind.
I said I would take over Sweden. At breakfast I had already taken over Sweden.
At lunch I took over Europe. At dinner I took over the world.
That was my plan.
And that’s exactly what has happened.
In what way do you hope that number 10 will influence Swedish football?
I hope it will have a positive influence. What I’ve done has made it possible for others to succeed.
It has opened doors for those who have a different background,
those who do not get as many chances as others.
There are many out there fighting,
doing a lot without getting noticed.
Just like me, I did not get many chances, but I took my opportunity.
I didn’t need somebody to give me an opportunity, I took it.
You have to stand up for yourself and fight and be prepared that anything can happen.
It can take a right turn. It can take a left turn.
But you should always have confidence in what you do.
Believe in what you do, take all the tackles,
get up and keep going.
Many people come to you seeking advice.
You played a mentor role in the Swedish National Team and also in United.
What do younger players want to know and what can you teach them?
It’s mostly about helping them with their football and getting them to focus on the right things.
It’s different from when I used to walk to practice myself, 10 kilometers each day.
It’s not the same level.
They are not in those tough situations.
It’s more about my experience, what I’ve been through on the football pitch, and guiding them professionally.
There’s huge pressure at this elite level.
Many people don’t understand the level I’ve taken it to. Nobody has been there.
When they enter my world, they will know what pressure really is.
I never settled with not being noticed. I was not happy to be just okay.
My philosophy is: Why just be good when you can be the best?
Why just be good when you can be the best?
On that stage, those who get there,
live under pressure 24/7. They must perform all the time.
I’m only as good as at my last training and match.
In the beginning, they said: “He’s too tough, he’s too hard, he’s too aggressive,
it’s not good”. These things you have read in the newspaper.
But that’s the world that I come from
I have competed with Adriano, Crespo, André, Messi, and Ronaldinho.
They are the ones I’ve been fighting against. I do not fight the average Joe, from the office with all due respect.
As Capello said; “You do not ask for respect, you demand respect.”
That’s how it works. That’s what I wanted to instill in the Swedish National Team.
You know how it is. We’re supposed to be the same.
Everyone on a line.
But I have always aimed higher.
When people ask: “Are you happy with what you have achieved?” my answer is: No,
I keep going until I’m happy. But I will never be satisfied.
And that’s a number 10.
I’m thinking that you have really succeeded. A lot of people are inspired by you.
When you post on Instagram, how does the response make you feel?
I feel appreciated.
I’ve done something that someone likes.
You get a lot of love in return.
It empowers and motivates me.
It feels like I’m doing the right thing and it’s very positive.
You reach far beyond football. My son is not at all interested in football, but he likes you.
He follows you and when I ask why, he says you are a good fighter. That’s his answer.
Everything we do in life we fight for.
Once you have succeeded, the best feeling is to see yourself in the mirror and say:
“I’ve worked hard for this, I’ve been fighting for this.”
We will have to fight even more, and we are not satisfied with what we have done so far.
The mental part is important.
As I said before, why be good when you can be the best?
All the young girls and boys in Sweden who have heard of this scholarship and want to seek it,
what characteristics should they have?
The need to have faith that they can succeed. They are going to have to fight. They need to be daring.
They won’t be satisfied.
And they will take it further and do it better.
It’s not about being born to do something.
It’s not that I was born to be a football player, it’s something I fought for and trained hard for.
Anyone out there can do it.
Girl, boy, man, woman.
It’s just about getting the right ingredients in your head.
I’ve taken it to the level that I’ve been able to.
The next number 10 will take the future of Swedish football even further and make it even better.
That’s what this is all about.
It’s not about being born to do something,
it’s about what you want.
If you want to succeed, you will succeed.
I don’t think we can finish any better than that. Thanks a million! Thank you!