The World Cup has been pretty damn entertaining so far but let's face it: It would be even better were Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic there. This is an excerpt from his hilarious (and surprisingly well-written) memoir, I Am Zlatan.
Helena and I would drive around here and there and rate the houses. It was this fun thing we did. We made top-10 lists, and which house do you think came in at number one? The pink one in Limhamnsvagen, of course, and it wasn't just because of my old dreams. That house was really marvelous. It was the nicest one in Malmo, but, of course, there was one problem.
There were some people living there, and they didn't want to sell, and what can you do? That was the question. We decided not to give up. Maybe give them an offer they couldn't refuse. Not that I was going to send some Rosengård guys their way, exactly. This had to be handled with style, but, even so, we decided to go on the offensive. One day, Helena was at IKEA.
She bumped into a friend there, and they got to talking about the pink house.
"Oh, some good friends of mine live in that pile," her friend said. "Set up a meeting. We want to speak to them," Helena told her.
"Are you joking?"
"Not at all," and so she did.
The friend called and explained the situation, and was told that the couple really didn't want to sell, no way. They liked living there and the neighbors were so nice and lovely and the grass was green, and the view toward Ribersborg Beach and the Øresund Strait was terrific, blah blah blah. The friend had been given her instructions and told them that we weren't going to take that as an answer from her. If they wanted to stay there, no matter what we were willing to pay, they'd have to tell us to our faces, and wouldn't it be fun to meet Zlatan and Helena over a cup of coffee? Not everyone got to do that.
They clearly thought that would be fun, so Helena and I went over, and I knew right away that I had the upper hand. I am who I am, but even so, I was of two minds. As I walked through those gates, I felt big and small at the same time, both the kid who gawked at those houses during the Mile and the guy who was a huge star. At first, I just went with Helena and checked it out, "Very nice, very nice, what a lovely place you've got here." I behaved and was polite, and all that. Over coffee, I couldn't restrain myself any longer.
"We're here because you're living in our house," I said, and the man started laughing, as if to say, How funny, and sure, I had a gleam in my eye. It was a sort of joke, a line from a movie.
Then I continued, "You can take it as a joke if you want. But I'm serious. I intend to buy this house, I'll make sure you're happy, but we're going to have it," and then he went on, saying it wasn't for sale, not under any conditions.
He was adamant—or rather, he pretended to be, but now I could hear it. It was just like on the transfer market. It was a game. The house had a price for him. I could see it in his eyes and I could sense it in the atmosphere, and I explained my thinking: I don't want to do things I don't know how to do. I'm a soccer player. I'm not a negotiator. I'll send a guy to do a deal.
There's got to be a limit somewhere. I sent a lawyer, and don't think I'm a fool who just pisses his money away. I'm a tactician. I'm careful. There was no, Get it at any price, none of that. It was, Make sure you get it for as little as possible.
Afterward, we sat at home waiting. It was a bit of a drama. Then the call came. "They'll sell for 30 mil"—and there was nothing to discuss. We bought it for 30 million kronor (around $3.5 million), and honestly, for that kind of money I bet that couple went skipping out of the house.
I'd done it. Sure, it wasn't free. We'd paid to be able to kick them out. This was just the beginning. We went mad renovating the place. We didn't cut any corners. We couldn't make the garden wall higher. The council said no. What could we do? We wanted a higher wall so no fans or stalkers could stand out there and look in on us. So we dug ourselves deeper instead. We lowered the level of the plot. There were loads of things like that. We really went to town, and that wasn't always popular.
The houses in that neighborhood are usually passed down as inheritances. Daddy's money pays, and nobody from my sort of back- ground had moved in before. It's all ritzy people, and there's nobody who speaks like me, who says stuff like "the wickedest house," and that. Here they use words like "distinguished" and "extraordinary."
I wanted to show that a guy like me could get in here with his own money. That was important to me right from the start, and I hadn't expected everybody to give me a round of applause. Even so, I was still surprised at the neighbors: What, they're going to do this and that? They carried on like that constantly. They moaned. We didn't care, though, and we made that house just the way we wanted it.
It was Helena who worked at it. She was incredibly thorough and got help from various museums and whatever. I wasn't as involved as she was. I don't have the same instinct for those things, but there was one thing I contributed. On the red feature wall in the foyer, I hung a big picture of two dirty feet. When my friends came by, they were all like, Awesome, wicked, cool place you've got here.
"But what are these disgusting feet doing here? How can you have this shit on your wall?"
"You idiots," I said. "Those feet have paid for all of this."
Reprinted with permission of Random House.