The Dutch midfielder has admitted to having “squabbles” with the enigmatic Swede during their time competing to be a talismanic presence at Ajax.
Rafael van der Vaart and Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Rafael van der Vaart claims that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was “jealous” of him during their time together at Ajax, with a clash of egos leading to plenty of “squabbles”.
The two enigmatic talents were always likely to butt heads in Amsterdam, with neither happy to live life in the shadow of others.
Van der Vaart was the more established star when their paths first crossed, with a product of a famed academy system already proving himself on a senior stage when Ibrahimovic arrived in 2001.
The pair would spend three years together, before Juventus snapped up the Swedish striker, with a battle for supremacy played out from the moment they were thrust into the same side.
Van der Vaart told Ukrainian news outlet Football.ua on his relationship with Ibrahimovic: “This question is always asked of me more than any other.
“At that time we were both young and I was the best player in Ajax. He came to the club and believed that he was the best player at Ajax.
“Back then he did not act like he does now and I think he was a bit jealous.
“I did not have really big problems with him. It was just two egos converging in one place. I think I was a bigger problem for him than he was for me.
“But in general he is a sincere person with whom I sometimes had squabbles. But I am sure that if we met now there would be no problems.”
Van der Vaart and Ibrahimovic are now approaching the end of their respective playing careers.
Both have spent long periods at the top of the game and believe they still have plenty to offer.
Ibrahimovic is currently turning out in MLS with the LA Galaxy while Van der Vaart has entered a third season in Danish football with Esbjerg.
Quizzed as to whether the pair could ever grace the same side again, Van der Vaart added: “Perhaps, who knows.
“We are older, we have families and children. I think this changes you as a person.
“I made mistakes, so did he. In the end, we were young guys who aspired to reach the top and did all of this to achieve that.”