'Jesus, I had to leave that gay': Former Barcelona teammate lifts lid on Ibrahimovic's bitter feud with Guardiola
Ibrahimovic spent the 2009-10 season working under Guardiola at Barcelona, as the Nou Camp boss aimed to build on the stunning success he had secured in his first season in the dugout, including winning the La Liga and Champions League titles.
But despite a promising start to life in Spain for Ibrahimovic – who joined as a free-scoring forward from Inter Milan as Samuel Eto’o went the other way – tensions soon emerged between the big striker and his manager, supposedly over Guardiola’s desperation to keep star man Lionel Messi happy.
“[Pep] preferred to make Messi happy - he didn't value me," the Swede famously wrote in his autobiography ‘I am Zlatan’.
One man with a front-row seat as the drama unfolded was then-Barcelona teammate Dmytro Chygrynskiy, the Ukrainian defender who joined for around €25 million from Shakhtar Donetsk at around the same time as Ibrahimovic came through the Nou Camp door.
Speaking recently on the YouTube channel ‘Вацко Live’, Chygrynskiy – who now plays his football at AEK Athens – discussed how he became friends with Ibrahimovic at Barca, not least because the Swede appreciated his tough-tackling approach to training.
“[Once] I went in on Ibra tough, and after training he said to me, ‘Bravo, Jesus, bravo,’” Chygrynskiy explained in Ukrainian, sharing the Swede’s nickname for him, presumably based on his long hair.
But Chygrynskiy also revealed that Ibrahimovic had spoken out against Guardiola after their relationship deteriorated, discussing the situation with the Ukrainian when the pair later met in Cyprus while on international duty in 2011.
Switching partly to English in the interview, Chygrynskiy even appeared to suggest that Ibrahimovic had called Guardiola "gay."
“I remember Zlatan came to me and said, ‘Jesus, I had to leave that gay,’” the defender said, recalling the conversation.
Tensions famously erupted between Guardiola and Ibrahimovic after Barca’s Champions League semi-final defeat to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in 2010.
According to Ibrahimovic, he confronted Guardiola in the changing room, shouting “you haven’t got any balls,” also branding him a “spineless coward.”
Ibrahimovic was shipped out on loan to AC Milan in the 2010-11 season, and would join the Italians permanently the year after.
The notoriously cocksure Swede then made his way to PSG in France, Manchester United in England, and LA Galaxy in the US, before returning to Italy this season for another stint at Milan at the age of 38.
Guardiola went on to win the Champions League for a second time with Barcelona in 2011, before successful spells at Bayern Munich in Germany and Manchester City in England.
Chygrynskiy, capped 29 times by his country, endured a difficult time at Barcelona, rejoining former club Shakhtar in a cut-price €15 million deal after just a single season.
He is currently plying his trade in Greece, where he has been since arriving at AEK Athens from Dnipro in 2016.