Zlatan Ibrahimovic knows one or two things about controversial moments in football.
The AC Milan striker has gained something of a reputation for his fiery attitude in the beautiful game with his career having been littered with red cards, heated clashes and brutal challenges.
However, one of the most infamous moments in Ibrahimovic’s career involved a player who was perhaps even more well-known for becoming involved in incidents of footballing notoriety than him.
Materazzi vs Ibrahimovic
We are, of course, talking about Marco Materazzi, who is arguably most famous to football fans of a younger generation for being on the receiving end of Zinedine Zidane’s World Cup final head-butt.
But if you were to ask the former Italy defender what the most painful clash of his football career truly was, then there’s good reason to think that he’d actually pick Ibrahimovic over Zidane.
That’s because ‘Matrix’ felt the full brunt of a Taekwondo-like challenge from the Swedish striker during the first Milan Derby of the 2010/11 season in Serie A. Naturally.
Zlatan hospitalises Materazzi
A contemporary report from Goal documents how Materazzi was sent to hospital by the kung-fu kick and flying elbow of Ibrahimovic that left him sprawled out on the San Siro pitch.
We don’t know whether it’s more remarkable that Ibrahimovic only received a yellow card or that Inter boss Rafael Benitez was able to reveal that the injury “doesn’t seem serious” after the game.
And while Ibrahimovic claimed that he “did not do it on purpose,” at the time, the Swede has since revealed that it was actually a moment of revenge that had been brewing for almost half a decade.
Zlatan reveals it was revenge
According to the Daily Mail, Ibrahimovic told GQ Magazine in 2019: “Materazzi entered a challenge like an assassin and hurt me. He was a tough football player, that’s OK.
“But there’s two ways to be tough, one of them is aiming to hurt you. Even [Paolo] Maldini was tough, but with a different objective.
“It was Juventus-Inter in 2006 and after the foul I had to leave the pitch for a moment and [coach Fabio] Capello said: ‘I’ll substitute you’. I said: ‘no, I’ll go on’.
“I wanted to return to the pitch to get my revenge on Matrix. If someone does that to me, I won’t forget about it. But after two minutes, I’m in too much pain to go on. I can’t play. Then I go to Inter, Barcelona, Milan…
“In the first game, the 2010-11 derby, they were all against me. OK, this motivates me. But, if you don’t have any control, it’s not good. You’ll lose your head and do something stupid. I got a penalty, and who fouled me? Materazzi. 1-0 Milan.
“In the second half, Matrix is coming at me and I hit him with a taekwondo move, I sent him to the hospital. [Dejan] Stankovic asked me: ‘Why did you do that?’ And I replied to him: ‘I have been waiting for this moment for four years. That’s why’.”
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Geez. It’s fair to say that Ibrahimovic holds a grudge then.
Materazzi fires back on Instagram
And clearly Materazzi does, too, because he responded to Ibrahimovic’s confirmation that it was an act of revenge by posting an image of Inter Milan winning the Champions League on Instagram.
The caption? Well, the Inter icon penned: “I came… I saw… I conquered. Always and in any case, THANK YOU, Ibrahimovic. Without you, we would never have WON.”
A pretty great reply from Materazzi, there’s no two ways about it, but at the expense of sounding like we’re condoning violence, it’s pretty clear that Ibrahimovic’s blow will have stung a hell of a lot more.