EXCLUSIVE: Thierry Henry Was Right To Handle The Ball Against Ireland – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

In a two part special the Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic talks EXCLUSIVELY to Goal.com's Ashish Sharma, in an interview that will also feature on the BBC's flagship football programme Football Focus.
Born of Croatian and Bosnian parents, but in Sweden. Born half Muslim and half Christian but preferring not to adhere to any religion, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was probably destined to be quite different.

Playing football featured at a very early age, and quickly the young Zlatan's life revolved around the game. Now at the age of 28 it has converted him into the second most expensive player in world football, but playing for the number one club in the world, Barcelona. His high profile transfer from Internazionale last summer came about as a result of a swap move involving Samuel Eto'o going the other way. Two superstar players replacing each other.

After a terrific start to football life in Catalunya, where Ibrahimovic scored in his first five league games, he went through a rocky period failing to score in eight games. He finally ended his goal drought in the Vicente Calderon last weekend, but to no avail. Barcelona registered their first defeat of the season at the hands of Atletico Madrid.

So more than half way through his first season, how does Ibrahimovic assess his season so far?

"You have to adapt to the players that you play with," he told Goal.com.

"It is a big difference compared to Italy and Inter. I mean here I am playing with players that if you have a bad day you have team mates who can resolve the problem and you can win. That's the way it is.

"For my part, I train everyday and I am getting to know my team mates and I am enjoying it all," Zlatan continues.

"I think it takes one year to come into a team 100% when you know the system the philosophy and the way the trainer wants you to play."

While Ibrahimovic tasted defeat for the first time in La Liga last weekend, rivals Real Madrid won at Xerez and gained three points, Barca's lead at the top is now down to just two points. But with the experience that Ibrahimovic has of winning titles in Italy, the striker says the team isn't feeling the pressure.

"I think we should just focus on ourselves and play the way we know how to and play with a lot of confidence, and we shouldn't look at other teams. Because If we play the way we can then there aren't many teams that can beat us," he stressed.

However, Ibrahimovic is concerned with the bad luck of injuries that have hit the squad.

"It's never good to have injuries, the more players you can use and the more players you have available it's better for the coach and it's easier for everybody," he notes.

"When you have a lot of games you have to use all the material that is available to you.

"So now we have a lot of injuries, but luckily we have players who have not played a lot and they can come in and replace those who are injured. And in time those who are out will come back."

One player who is not in the side and it has nothing to do with injuries is Thierry Henry.

The Frenchman has not been picked for the last three games. The wisdom outside the club seems to suggest that Henry no longer has a future at the Camp Nou. The argument is compelling especially given the lethal goal scoring form that the youngster Pedro currently finds himself in.

"I speak to Thierry everyday," Zlatan explained.

"He has a lot of experience and his career has been amazing. He knows what he needs to do and he knows his situation. There is nobody who needs to go to him and to talk to him to explain his situation.

"I mean we're talking about Thierry Henry, there are not many Thierry Henry's in the world. He's a professional and if he doesn't play then that is up to the coach to decide. He just has to train hard. In the end everybody wants to play."

Ibrahimovic also has some sympathy for his team-mate following the criticism he received after his handball in the World Cup qualifier against Ireland. The Swede says he would have done exactly the same thing if he had to.

"So much was written about his handball," Ibra lamented.

"I would have done the same thing as well.

"It can happen to me as well. If I was in the same situation I would probably do the same. I would do anything for my team. For my country to go through to the World Cup, to a European Championship or just playing a serious game. I would do everything to win.

"'Titi' did something impulsive and it just happened. They won the game. I mean France will play in the World Cup as a result. Titi will be playing in a World Cup. I won't be playing in one and I mean very happy for him."

In PART TWO

Zlatan Ibrahimovic talks about the Champions League and the teams he thinks may be rivals to Barcelona. He also talks about his former coach Roberto Mancini and the job that he is doing at Manchester City.