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Zlatan Ibrahimović

'Ibrahimovic is a tough guy to be around' - McTominay gives verdict on Zlatan & reveals Messi was his role model

10:45 GMT 10/03/2021
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Scott McTominay AC Milan Man Utd
The Manchester United midfielder has offered an insight into the striker's mindset behind the scenes, describing him as a "big presence"

Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic is "a tough guy to be around", according to Scott McTominay, who says his former Manchester United team-mate is a "ruthless" figure in the dressing room.

Ibrahimovic spent two years on United's books after joining the club on a free transfer in 2016, scoring 29 goals in 53 games while also getting his hands on the Europa League and Carabao Cup.

The Swede became a cult figure among supporters during that period and McTominay was left in awe by his professionalism, but has also admitted that he isn't the easiest player to get along with because of the high standards he demands from his colleagues.

What's been said?

Speaking ahead of United's round-of-16 first-leg clash against Milan in the Europa League, which Ibrahimovic will sit out due to injury, the Scottish midfielder told : “[He was] ruthless. I’m not going to say too much more than that.

“Good professional, worked hard, big, big presence in the dressing room in terms of his voice and the way that he is with people.

“He’s a ruthless guy in terms of the way he wants to win 24/7, if you’re not on the same page as him, then you won’t succeed under him, he’ll make life hard for you, so you'd better work hard at winning, otherwise it’ll be a tough time for you.

“I love guys like that in football. He’s obviously had a legendary career which is a real credit to him, and obviously to his family as well, so I have nothing but big praise for him. He’s a tough guy to be around sometimes, but that’s the positive - I can be [tough to be around] as well.”

Zlatan's record for Milan this season

Losing Ibrahimovic for the meeting with United represents a huge blow for Milan, who have re-emerged as a major force on both domestic and European fronts since his return to the club in January 2020.

The Swede has played a key role in the Rossoneri's rise to second in Serie A and progression to the latter rounds of the Europa League despite having to deal with a series of fitness issues, scoring 16 goals in 21 outings across all competitions.

McTominay's role models

McTominay soaked up plenty of knowledge from his brief time working alongside Ibrahimovic, but the two players he looks up to most have reached even greater heights over the course of their respective careers.

The 24-year-old says Lionel Messi's ability to overcome perceived physical disadvantages was a great source of inspiration for him at the start of his own professional journey, and has also revealed that he looks up to Cristiano Ronaldo as the perfect example of how to ensure longevity at the highest level.

McTominay added on the Barcelona and Juventus superstars: “Obviously, when I was younger, I was really small, so [Lionel] Messi was a perfect example for me of someone who would get kicked about by bigger players.

“Messi just took to it like a duck to water. Watching him was a real inspiration, to show me that if he's one of the smallest players on the pitch but the best player on it, then why can’t I be?

“Then as you get older and a lot stronger and bigger, you look to [Cristiano] Ronaldo – his physical attributes and the way that he’s worked on his body, everything.

“His body, his mind, his talent all come together as a collective. And for young players you don’t get a much better example.”

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