Gordon Smith shares how Celtic were offered Zlatan Ibrahimovic deal - for just £2m

Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he substituted

Gordon Smith claims Celtic were offered the chance to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2001.

Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he substitutedSweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he is substituted

Former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith has told The Sunday Post that he offered Celtic the chance to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2001 - but Martin O'Neill took too long.

Swedish hero Ibrahimovic, 34, has become one of the world's most recognisable players during a trophy-laden career, as he has hit a remarkable 392 goals in 677 games during spells with Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.

Speculation surrounds the mercurial striker's future given that he has left Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract, but for now, he will be focusing on Monday's Euro 2016 clash between Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

Ibrahimovic has starred on the international stage with 62 goals in 113 games, and he will be hoping to add to that against Ireland, as he comes up against a manager who could have signed him 15 years ago.

Ireland boss Martin O'Neill was in charge of Celtic back in 2001, and was offered the chance to sign Ibrahimovic for just £2m, according to former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring the second goal for PSG

The ex-Rangers man was working as an agent at the time, and has now told The Sunday Post that having spotted Ibrahimovic during his time at Malmo, he offered the Swede to Celtic and O'Neill - a deal which would have cost just £2m.

However, Smith claims that O'Neill took too long, and by the time he decided to make a move for Ibrahimovic, he had already signed for Ajax; and now the Ireland boss has to hope that he doesn't come back to haunt him on Monday evening.

"I was an agent back then, running a winter training camp for football clubs in Cyprus," said Smith. "One of the clubs that came over that year was Malmo and I spotted a striker, an Eastern European, who I thought looked to be some player. I spoke to one of the scouts and he said: ‘No it is a Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He is only 19 years old’. When I heard that, I was really impressed."

"So I called Martin O’Neill, the then Celtic manager, and said: ‘Get someone over here to come and see this guy. He looks great and you should be able to pick him up for £2m’. Martin left it a few weeks, though, during which time Zlatan had made a bit of an impact in the Swedish club season."

"Eventually, though, Martin did get in touch and said: ‘Right, we are getting someone over this weekend. Find out his contract situation for me’. I replied: ‘Sorry, you are too late – Ajax have just bought him for £5m’," he added.

Do you think Ibrahimovic will come back to haunt O'Neill on Monday?

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch