?Ex-Manchester United, PSG, Barcelona, Milan, Inter, Juventus, Inter and Ajax striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played with countless incredible players during his glittering career.
He famously had little time for the way Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta were like well bahaved schoolboys at Camp Nou, but shared a pitch with the likes of Alessandro del Piero, Pavel Nedved, Luis Figo, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf over the years.
Yet the one who seems to stand out for the legendary Swede most is a little surprising.
Speaking to SPORTbible at the launch of his new game Zlatan Legends, Ibrahimovic named Brazilian striker Adriano as the most talented of all his former team-mates.
“I played with great champions. I played with players that were already…wow. I played with players that I saw were a talent and became…wow,” the 35-year-old explained.
“But the one I felt could [play at the top for] longer, and he didn’t do it, was Adriano when I was at Inter.”
Ibrahimovic made the move to the Nerazzurri in the summer of 2006 after the murky Calciopoli scandal ripped Juventus apart. Adriano had already been there for two years, actually re-signing for the club from Parma after it was Inter who first brought him to Europe in 2001.
Ibrahimovic was stunned by the ability the Brazilian had and was keen to start playing.
“When I came to Inter the first thing I said to the president was ‘I demand [Adriano] to stay because he is the player I want to play with’,” Zlatan commented.
“Because, the way he was, he was an animal. He could shoot from every angle. Nobody could tackle him, nobody could take the ball, he was a pure animal. But, it last for a short time.”
Asked why Adriano’s bright star faded so quickly – he returned to Brazil on loan in 2008 and his career at the highest level started to wind down at the age of 26 – Ibrahimovic suggested that his ex-colleague might not have had the mental strength to succeed.
“I don’t know – 50% of everything you do is the mental part. If you don’t have it in your head, it’s difficult. In his case, I enjoyed playing with him, I saw him, I was happy that I played with him and against him. So, it’s a shame that it lasted such a short time only,” he said.
Now aged 35, Adriano’s last stint came at Miami United in the National Premier Soccer League (the equivalent to the third tier in the United States). Despite short spells at Roma, Corinthians and Atletico Paranaense, he hasn’t played regular football since 2010.
Ibrahimovic, on the other hand, is still going strong two months shy of his 36th birthday and is expected to rejoin Manchester United when he fully recovers from a knee injury. According to the latest gossip, that may even come with some additional part-time coaching responsibilities as he begins to also look towards a post-playing career.