RANKED: The 25 Greatest Soccer Players Ever

25. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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We often hear about unique athletes being billed as ‘unicorns’ for their ability to play the game at an extremely high level despite having an atypical appearance. Never did anyone believe that the son of a Bosnian man and a Croatian woman — growing up in the slums of Sweden — would idolize Brazilian footballers on grainy tapes en route to becoming one of the most prolific strikers in the history of the sport.

In that sense, the gruff Ibrahimović represents the global nature of the game which has taken a stranglehold in recent decades. The 6-foot-5 striker is not universally liked by peers, ex-teammates, current teammates, or those watching from home. He’s a polarizing figure, to be sure. However, based on his talent and production levels, there’s no denying how special Ibrahimović has been throughout his career. You don’t see players at his height willing to take defenders on with pace, quickness, elite skill, and aggression. It’s as if you took the prototypical No. 9 from Scandinavia (tall, rugged, physical) and gave him the skillset of a player from South America. You just don’t see guys like this very often — not to mention players who literally have succeeded in virtually every big league around the world (Serie A, La Liga, English Premier League, Eredivisie, Ligue 1).