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 spent a solitary season at the Catalan giants after joining for around €25 million from Shakhtar Donetsk.
Speaking recently on the YouTube channel ‘Вацко Live’, Chygrynskiy – who now plays his football at AEK Athens in Greece – 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, sharing the Swede’s nickname for him because of his long hair.
But Chygrynskiy also revealed that Ibrahimovic had spoken out against Guardiola after their relationship deteriorated beyond repair, discussing the situation with the Ukrainian when the pair later met in Cyprus while on international duty in 2011.
“I remember Zlatan came to me and said, ‘Jesus, I had to leave that gay,’” Chygrynskiy said, switching to English.
Tensions famously erupted between Guardiola and Ibrahimovic after the team’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 them permanently the year after.
Guardiola went on to win the Champions League for a second time with Barcelona the following year, before successful domestic spells at Bayern Munich in Germany and Manchester City in England.
Ibrahimovic is now back in Italy for another stint at AC Milan at the age of 38.
Chygrynskiy, meanwhile, is plying his trade in Greece, where he has been since arriving at AEK Athens from Dnipro in 2016.
Capped 29 times by his country, the defender endured a difficult time at Barcelona, rejoining former club Shakhtar in a cut-price €15 million deal after just a single season.