Ahead of his side's Tuesday night clash with Manchester United, Everton boss Ronald Koeman has revealed what it was like like to coach a 19-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Koeman had United's top scorer under his charge at Ajax back at the turn of the century, when the big Swede was still a precocious teenager. The Toffees manager admitted that despite his immense talent, it wasn't always plain sailing, claiming that the pair "had some really strong talks". 

“I managed Zlatan, he was young and sometimes also difficult! Yeah, but okay it’s normal,” he said, as quoted by the ​Mirror.

AFC Ajax's coach Ronald Koeman (C) train

“He was funny but sometimes difficult, because when I was at Ajax we had a lot of young players at that time - Sneijder, Van der Vaart, De Jong, Heitinga, Mido, Zlatan. We had really big talents at that time, but all were 19, driving Porsches, driving Ferraris... eh?! New generation. I can tell you some stories!”

Despite hinting at the pitfalls of having to manage so many young players, Koeman, who won two Eredivisie titles as Ajax coach, also claimed he enjoyed working with Ibrahimovic and the other gifted talents from that generation.

“It was good. It was a nice period. It was good for me as a young coach at that time,” he said.

"I met Zlatan three or four times in the last four or five months. And if we speak about that time he knows - he knows perfectly how he was when he was 19 and how he is now.”

“He is still one of the best and I still admire the boy.... I’m not surprised [at him still being a star at age 35] because he really has that talent and he’s so strong, and maybe mentally he’s one of the strongest players I know.”


However, Koeman played down comparisons between his former striker and the main man from his current Everton crop - Romelu Lukaku.

“You can’t compare a 23-year-old boy with Zlatan now," Koeman added.

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"Zlatan makes those steps through his whole career, and the mental way, I don’t have any doubt about Rom in that case,” he explained.

“Rom knows by himself when it’s good and when it isn’t good — like last Saturday, he was not performing like he can do — and what the team needs."

He’s the top scorer of the league, he’s a great striker, working hard, he’s a human boy, not always a [10 out of] 10. It’s football.”

Ibrahimovic is set to return to action on Tuesday night after seeing out his recent ban.