Ted Lasso Season 3's Zava Is Almost Certainly Based On An Actual Soccer Icon

"Ted Lasso," the Apple TV+ breakout comedy hit, is finally back for more kindness, more Roy Kent, and more football goodness (yes, football, get used to it, "soccer" fans). Even though the World Cup is over, the football fever never stops.

Indeed, season 3 sees AFC Richmond reach the big leagues and play in the Premier League, with the season finally having a good sense of direction. But kindness, shortbread, and a good attitude are not enough to make it in the big leagues against the big teams. You need something else. The answer, as the latest episode seems to indicate, is a football superstar with an ego to match — Zava. In episode two, the former Juventus player decides to join Richmond after getting his ego struck and being promised to be the team's biggest superstar.

Zava rules. He is instantly a standout character, a memorable player with incredible skills and a personality to match. Even if Jamie Tartt is hurt and jealous, everyone loves Zava. He is also clearly inspired by one of the most controversial figures in association football: Zlatan Ibrahimović.

A king and a legend

Zlatan Ibrahimović is a Swedish footballer who has played with some of the biggest clubs in the world across four decades, including AC Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, and Paris Saint-Germain.

He is renowned for his acrobatic strikes, imposing stature, and powerful long shots. Now, "Ted Lasso" doesn't always get football right, but it nails this. Maximilian Osinski not only looks exactly like Zlatan, but he moves like him, and plays like him, with the third episode of the show's third season recreating some of Zlatan's best-known goals, like a phenomenal bicycle kick, and his subsequent shirtless celebration — and over-the-top back tattoos.

As the episode shows, Zava quickly becomes a sensation, with even AFC Richmond's biggest critics unable to deny their admiration for the superstar striker — which any football fan can relate to. Whether they hate Zlatan or not, it's impossible not to at least admire his skills.

And, as the episode beautifully captures, the star player is not above controversy. Though Zava is an egocentric jerk, he is nothing compared to the real Zlatan's public persona. In a way, he's the Chuck Norris meme personified, someone who refers to himself in the third person, the kind of guy who, when transferring to the LA football team, buys a whole page ad in the LA Times simply saying "Dear Los Angeles, You're welcome."

Indeed, part of the appeal of Zlatan is his electrifying personality, which is as entertaining to watch as his football skills. Once, when asked why he didn't name himself in a list of players he admires, Zlatan responded "lions don't compare themselves to humans."

"Ted Lasso" does a good job recreating football culture in England, but with Zava, the show captures some of the specific personalities of the sport, and it's fantastic.