Dare to Zlatan - Call it an image makeover. Just about everyone in sports knows about Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s ego, which is second only to his incredible talent. Now, Zlatan is actually poking fun at himself — and his critics — via Twitter and ESPN.
The Swedish soccer star recently “answered” fan tweets using his alter-ego, a cartoon image of himself that ESPN has used during its coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The cartoon Zlatan has an exaggerated nose, the trademark ponytail and speaks more like a Russian gangster than a Swede. The cartoons have become a big hit, as has Nike’s ad campaign featuring him, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and other soccer superstars who take on a clone team in “The Last Match.”
Right after the United States defeated Ghana to put itself in position to advance in the World Cup, cartoon Zlatan took to ESPN to congratulate the Yanks, saying, “You were very Zlatan today.” Ibrahimovic’s self-parody has turned his first name into an adjective and verb and fans have become mesmerized by his witty repertoire. In answer to the question “I want to Zlatan like Zlatan, please teach me mighty Zlatan,” Ibrahimovic’s alter ego tweeted, “Zlatan applauds the number of times you used Zlatan in one sentence. Always try what others don’t have the guts to do.”
Ibrahimovic opened his session by tweeting directly to Twitter management at “Zlatan needs more than 140 characters. Please change rules for Zlatan.” As for how to “Dare to Zlatan,” “Daring to Zlatan is easy. Start by trying moves that can’t be done. Keep trying until you are Zlatan.” As for how Zlatan takes risks, “A wise man once said, surprising your opponent is the key to surprising them. That wise man was Zlatan.”
The Twitter question and answer session is the latest in a string of big media publicity for the Swede. His book, “I am Zlatan,” debuted in the American market on June 3, and in a June 19 interview with ESPN he again stated he “could see himself” playing in Major League Soccer when his career in Europe comes to an end. Ibrahimovic is also a central character in Nike’s big World Cup promotion, “The Last Game.” The premise of the short animated film has players such as Ibrahimovic, Rooney of England, Portugal’s Ronaldo and others taking too many risks, and a team of clones taking over football with its precision. The stars gather and challenge the clones to a winner-take-all match and, of course, the stars win.
The film is all part of Nike’s efforts to market World Cup and club team jerseys as well as a new line of football boots.
Nike is also behind the #DareToZlatan Twitter campaign.
Ibrahimovic recently launched his own app for iPhones in the U.S. and Brazil and has designed his own line of soccer-related clothing for Nike.

Dared to be Zlatan - One player who dared to Zlatan and paid the consequences is Guillermo Molins. The Malmö captain tore the ACL in his right knee June 27 during a friendly match against Partizan Belgrade. Molins injured his knee trying to whirl out of the way of a challenge from a Belgrade player.
”I won a ball far down the midfield. I dribbled past a player and he ball got away from me. Then there was a sliding challenge and I walked away, but when I put the foot down, it's my last step in a few months,” said Molins at a June 30 press conference. “My knees are not as strong as my head.”
It is the second time Molins has had to go under the knife for a knee. The former Under-21 international tore the meniscus in his right knee in 2011 in his first match for Belgian side Anderlecht. He never found his form again and Anderlecht released him last summer. He rejoined Malmo and was crucial to the team clinching the Allsvenskan title season. His eight goals in the first 12 games helped propel Malmö to the top spot in the league.
Molins’ injury cound not come at a worse time for Malmö, which opens its quest to qualify for the UEFA Champions League on July 15. Malmo is short several players who are injured and expects to lose at least two players when the European transfer opens.
Malmo manager Åge Hareide said he expects the club to look outside Sweden for a replacement. Malmo recently sold striker Pontus Jansson to Torino and Miko Albornoz to Hannover, leaving the team with no viable replacement within the club.
Molins spent two unhappy years at Anderlect after leaving Malmö in 2011 for the Belgian club. He jumped at the chance to return and was enjoying arguably his best season ever this year.


Outdaring Zlatan - “The Zlatan” may not have made it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but one Swede has already been in two matches and is ready for a third.
Referee Jonas Eriksson was on the field July 1 for the knockout phase match between Argentina and Switzerland. It was the 40-year-old Swede’s third match at the tournament. In his first two matches, Ghana-USA and Brazil-Cameroon, Eriksson earned plaudits for the way he controlled the match and forcefully minimized “diving” by players after minimal contact.
Eriksson, who is a mainstay official in the Allsvenskan, became a FIFA referee in 2002. He said he became a referee because, “As a young player, there were very few referees who could handle me and cope with me when I was protesting or questioning and I though there must be a better way to deal with that than to just give a yellow card.”
A native of Lulea in Sweden’s icy north, Eriksson said he expected to have some problems acclimating to the jungle heat and humidity in Brazil.
“I come from the north of Sweden so I enjoy the snow, which is quite a contradiction to the green grass in Brazil, but I am looking forward to it.”
Eriksson is on the short list to officiate one of the semifinals and possibly the final. If he makes the final, he would be the first Swedish official to do so and the first Swede since 1958 to appear in a World Cup final. Sweden, behind the greats Nils Liedholm, Gunnar Nordahl and Gunnar Gren, reached the final of the 1958 (to which Sweden played host), only to lose to Brazil and a 17-year-old supertalent named Pele.