Head coach FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini (R) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint Germain prior to the Qatar Winter Tour match betweeen Paris Saint Germain and FC Internazionale Milano at Le Grand Stade on December 30, 2014 in Marrakech, Morocco.
Italy boss Roberto Mancini has claimed Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be regarded on a par with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mancini, who like the Swedish ace was given a best player in Serie A award on three occasions, was Ibrahimovic's coach for two years at Inter after signing him from Juventus following the Calciopoli scandal.
Ibrahimovic's 478 career goals and 13 league titles (two revoked due to the match-fixing scandal at Juventus) across seven major clubs and five countries, before he moved to LA Galaxy, would compare favourably with most careers, but he is unfortunate to play in the same era as two of the greatest ever to play the game.
The future for the 6ft 5in striker is currently unclear given his short-term deal with Milan, signed after finishing his contract in the MLS, will end before the Serie A can resume, but the former Sampdoria and Lazio playmaker paid tribute to his contribution to the game.
“Zlatan will be remembered as one of the greatest forwards of all time," Mancini told Sport Mediaset.
"I put him on the same level as Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He won the league title wherever he went, scoring a ton of goals.
“He’s done well at Milan too this season, but I don’t know what his plans are for the future.”
Although a different type of player to the other two, physically stronger and a better volleyer of the ball, there are not many who would agree with Mancini's view that he shares their rarefied air.
To use crude statistics, the long-time Barcelona and Real Madrid rivals scored a goal a game over the decade just completed and share 11 Ballon d'Or awards (Messi six, Ronaldo five), while Ibrahimovic has netted around half the amount and his best finish in world football's individual showcase was fourth place in 2013.
David Beckham gave a less controversial viewpoint when asked by Telam in Argentina, putting both Messi and Ronaldo ahead of their contemporaries, with the Barcelona ace in the number one spot.
“He is alone in his class as a player, it is impossible that there is another like him,” Beckham said.
“He, like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is not at his level, are both above the rest.”