Messi or Ronaldo? Depends who you ask. If you ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the answer’s going to be “Zlatan.”
When asked, the Paris Saint-Germain forward managed to work in some praise for Messi and a diss for Ronaldo, in the most economical and mischievous way possible.
In a video, Zlatan is asked by SI.com host Maggie Gray to “say the first thing that comes into your mind” as she throws names at him, because Gray is practicing for her license in Freudian psychoanalysis, probably. Or, more likely, because she’s in a hurry and needs the interview to take less than three minutes.
(Just kidding: they posted the full interview, with actual sentence answers, later.)
Whatever. You have one of soccer’s best talkers in front of you and you’re telling him to use as few words as possible. These are the times we live in. Anyway, here are the results:
“Lionel Messi?” asks Gray.
“Fantastic,” says Zlatan.
Ronaldo’s so sensitive on the topic of his amazingness that even Rafael Benitez declining to call him the best player in the world last week, instead calling him “one of the best,” prompted reports of a rift between the forward and his new Real Madrid coach.
Benitez felt obliged to revise his praise upwards until it reached the level of sycophancy you’d expect to read in an official North Korean press report of a Pyongyang goat herder getting a surprise inspection visit from Kim Jong-un.
And now here’s Zlatan, describing Ronaldo as “good.” And Messi as “fantastic.”
Maybe the rumors that Paris Saint-Germain want Ronaldo to replace Zlatan have something to do with it, or lingering resentment over Ronaldo’s World Cup playoff that saw Portugal qualify for the 2014 tournament at Sweden’s expense. Or maybe it’s just Zlatan’s love of da banter.
Zlatan wasn’t finished. The invitation to stick his cleats once again into the coach who wooed him to Barcelona then wasted him was not turned down. The game continued:
“Pep Guardiola?” Gray enquired, innocently.
“Good coach. Bad person.”
As for Jose Mourinho?
Interestingly, Zlatan said something nice, albeit predictable, about MLS: “Growing.”
So if he’s watching U.S. soccer, he must have an opinion about Jurgen Klinsmann? “Good player.” No view on his coaching ability? “I haven’t followed that so much,” Zlatan says, in an uncharacteristic outburst of diplomacy and tact that pretty much guarantees he’s eying up a move to MLS at some point.