Is Ted Lasso's Zava Really Based on Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Is Ted Lasso's Zava Really Based on Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
Image credit: Legion-Media, Apple TV+

There are several clues that point to AFC Richmond’s global superstar being based on the legendary Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Apart from his physique and Zlatanesque hairstyle and beard, Zava is as flamboyant off the pitch as he is on it. The sense of excitement was huge among players and staff at the fictional club at the mere thought of Zava lining up with, rather than against, them in the Premier League.

The arrogance portrayed by actor Maximilian Osinski also lends itself to Ibrahimovic and his famous knack for falling out with teammates. And both refer to themselves in the third person – which, let’s face it, is a pretty big indication of arrogance.

Zava is also something of a journeyman footballer, having played for a total of 14 clubs, including Italian giants Juventus. Zlatan has played for 9 different clubs – his current stint at AC Milan being his third at the San Siro – including Juve. So, it’s clear to see why fans of the show, and of European football, have come to the conclusion that Zava is a fictional recreation of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

According to Osinski, though, this is only partially true. The actor told USA Today that his character is based on a trio of famous players – Ibrahimovic, Eric Cantona and Robert Lewandowski.

The Cantona link is very similar to that of Ibrahimovic. The Manchester United legend had a very similar style and temperament to the Swede. He was skilful, could pull off incredible tricks, didn’t care what anyone thought of him – and every now and then would do something incredibly stupid, like kung fu kick his fan!

In terms of character, though, Lewandowski is harder to spot in Zava. Aside from being a world-class striker, Lewandowski is not really known for the kind of arrogant attitude displayed by the other two.

Perhaps most telling when it comes to identifying the primary figure behind the character of Zava, is Osnski’s explanation of how he learnt about the character. He freely admits he’s never played football before being cast in the role and told USA Today that he prepared for the part by reading Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s autobiography and watching documentaries.

Interestingly, though, he never mentioned either of the other two players.

There is, however, one reason to suggest that Zava is not based on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. When AFC Richmond goes on a losing streak, Zava clearly starts to question whether he’s as good as he thought he was. Nobody has ever suggested such self-doubt is part of Ibrahimovic’s make-up. But then, maybe the writers were just adding in a touch of poetic licence.

Source: USA Today.