In a talk at the Hay Festival in the UK this week, Swedish author David Lagercrantz – who is also penning the sequel to Stieg Larsson's Millennium series – spoke about his collaboration with Ibrahimovic to write the footballer's 'I Am Zlatan' autobiography.
“The key thing is that I was not working as a journalist. I was not quoting him. I know this – if you want to find something that sounds true and authentic, the last thing you want to do is quote. I don't think I have any real quotes from him. I tried to get an illusion of him, to try and find the story. I tried to find the literary Ibrahimovic,” he told the audience at the Wales literary festival, according to the Telegraph newspaper.
The revelation immediately sparked a debate in the Swedish press and on social media, with some dismissing the book as fake.
The writer of the amazing book 'Zlatan' has told an audience he approached the work like a novel & none of the quotes are real. Bastard.
— John Pudney (@JohnPudney) May 27, 2015
Even the parody Twitter account of Sweden's young Princess Estelle got involved, saying: “Clarification: I write my own tweets. Whatever David Lagercrantz says.”
Förtydligande: Jag skriver mina egna tweets. Vad David Lagercrantz än säger. #Zlatan
— Prinsessan Estelle (@E_Bernadotte) May 27, 2015
However, others defended Lagercrantz by pointing out that the Swedish footballer is known for his feats on the pitch rather than his verbal eloquence.
“Whoever thought that Zlatan had said everything in 'I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic' word-by-word must belong to the small group who hasn't read the book,” tweeted Swedish journalist Niklas Orrenius.
De som trodde att Zlatan ordagrant sagt allt som står i “Jag är Zlatan Ibrahimovic” måste tillhöra den lilla grupp som inte läst boken.
— Niklas Orrenius (@niklasorrenius) May 27, 2015
Published in November 2011, 'I am Zlatan' quickly became one of the all-time Swedish best-sellers and proceeded to sell millions of copies all over the world.
The sporting memoirs follow the Paris Saint-Germain player's life from his tough youth in one of Malmö's poorest areas, Rosengård, to his rise to fame through his professional football career, including years spent at Ajax, Juventus, Inter and AC Milan as well as among Spanish giants Barcelona.
Lagercrantz himself hit back at the accusations on Wednesday, saying all quotes in the book – which include beauties such as “an injured Zlatan is a serious thing for any team” and “I was unhappy, but I carried on being brilliant” – had been approved by Ibrahimovic.
“It's not fake, the project is based on the greatest respect for Zlatan. It would have not been possible to do this if it had been a book of interviews, people would have fallen asleep,” he told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.
“To quote somebody straight off is not good. The written language is different, it requires a different density to the spoken language. I listened to Zlatan repeatedly and tried to find expressions and a literary language that I believed was the way to get the closest to him,” he added.
Swedish author David Lagercrantz. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/SCANPIX
Lagercrantz said the footballer had been involved in the process every step of the way.
“We discovered this language together, Zlatan and I, and I believe that is one of the reasons why this book has become such an astounding success among critics and readers. To get close to a person you have to find their essence and that's where literature is a wonderful tool. This is not a book of interviews, but Zlatan has approved every single quote.”
The Swedish footballer, who was recently suspended for three matches for a foul-mouthed outburst in the French league, is known for his big mouth. Fans can rest assured that this remains true, as Lagercrantz left his audience at the Hay Festival with a final zinger from the footballer: “I told him [at one of our meetings] I had just read David Beckham's book and that was such a boring book, actually. And he had a good answer: 'Who the f**k is Beckham?'”