STOCKHOLM - AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he broke a rib in a brawl with United States defender Oguchi Onyewu that could have "ended badly" had they not been separated by team mates.
In an autobiography sent to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Ibrahimovic says the two players "wanted to destroy each other" in the fight which started after the hot-tempered Swede launched a dangerous tackle on Onyewu in a Nov. 5, 2010, training session with Milan.
"I'm not talking about a small row," Ibrahimovic writes. "It was like life and death."
Once things cooled down the players shook hands and it was only later that Ibrahimovic found out that he had a broken rib.
Staying true to his bad-boy image in the book, Ibrahimovic also describes a series of rows with other players and coaches during his career, including an expletive-ridden outburst at Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
Ibrahimovic joined Barcelona in 2009 in a $66 million deal that sent striker Samuel Eto'o to Inter. He scored 16 goals in the Spanish league but often struggled to fit into Barcelona's intricate passing schemes.
The Swede blamed Guardiola for his failure, saying his game suffered when the coach met Lionel Messi's request to play in a more prominent role in the centre instead of on the flank.
"It's like you bought a Ferrari and drive it like a Fiat," Ibrahimovic said of his role in the shadow of Messi, whom he praised as a great player.
Ibrahimovic is full of praise for Fabio Capello, the current England manager who was his coach at Juventus, and Jose Mourinho, the former Inter Milan coach who is now at Real Madrid.
"If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola pulls down the curtains," Ibrahimovic says in the book, co-written with Swedish author David Lagercrantz.
Ibrahimovic says he felt like an outcast among the clean cut "school boys" on the Barcelona squad and even thought about quitting football. Instead he joined AC Milan in 2010, choosing the Italian club over Manchester City.
"City could surely become a great club in a few years. But I was about to turn 29. I didn't have time for long-term plans, and money was never the key thing," he says. "I wanted to go to a team that could be good now and no club in Europe had a history like Milan."
The 30-year-old forward says his personality was shaped by his Balkan roots and upbringing in a rough-and-tumble immigrant neighbourhood of Malmo, in southern Sweden.
Ibrahimovic says his parents split when he was two and the family struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. He got involved in petty crimes including bicycle theft and shoplifting and says he would probably have ended up a career criminal had he not focused on football.
"I was a savage, a lunatic, and I couldn't control my temper," Ibrahimovic says. That remained an issue — on and off the field — as he moved from local club Malmo FF to Ajax, and then to Juventus and Inter Milan.
He says he threatened to break Rafael van der Vaart's legs at Ajax and punched Frenchman Jonathan Zebina in the face after a "brutal" tackle during training with Juventus.
He also a shows a rare soft spot, describing the emotion that came over him when Inter's hardcore fans celebrated the birth of his first son, with a banner saying "Welcome Maximilian" in Italian.
"It was so beautiful that I wanted to cry," Ibrahimovic says. "Those fans don't play around. They are tough guys and I would have hard fights with them. But now, what can I say? It was Italy at its best."