Once upon a time, in a faraway land known as Milan, there was a boy named Pato, and he possessed a marvelous goalscoring touch. He loved nothing as much as scoring goals (except for maybe looking in the mirror so he could fix his hair), and he was very proud of his goalscoring touch. But one morning he woke up and discovered that his touch was gone. No matter how many times he tried to score, the ball always went high or wide or off the crossbar or straight at the keeper or, worst of all, the offside whistle had gone before he could even shoot. Pato could not bear to have lost his dearest possession (aside from his hair), and so he went to the home of his lover, the goddess Barbara, and sat before her door and began to lament the loss of his goalscoring touch.
"Barbara!" he cried. "If your father truly is a god and you truly love me, how could you have allowed my goalscoring touch to have been stolen? For I would not have lost it if it had not been taken from me. Indeed, I fear you have lied to me in some wise, that perhaps you love me not or your father be not a god, if you have let my goalscoring touch fall into the hands of another. For you know I love nothing so much as to score magnificent goals, and if you love me, you would want me to have what I love, and if your father is a god, you would have the power to secure it, and therefore verily - "
And then he broke off, for the goddess Barbara had opened her door and stepped outside, and straightaway tripped over him. The heel of one of her Ferragamo pumps drove into his thigh, and she dropped her briefcase on his foot. "Pato!" she said. "What on earth are you doing sitting on my doormat?"
"I am lamenting the loss of my goalscoring touch," Pato explained.
"How long have you been sitting there?" demanded the goddess Barbara. "There will be a dozen pictures of you in the tabloids tomorrow. Why didn't you ring the bell?"
Pato ignored her questions, took a deep breath and broke into his wail anew. "Barbara! If your father truly is a god and you truly love me, how could you have allowed my goalscoring touch to have been stolen? For I would not have lost it if - "
"Pato," Barbara snapped. "I have a board meeting in fifteen minutes. Go inside and wait for me, and when I am finished with my work for the day I will tell you how to get your goalscoring touch back."
"Yes, Barbara," Pato said meekly, and did as he was told.
When the goddess Barbara returned from her business meeting, she summoned Pato to her home office and said, "The secret of your lost goalscoring touch lies with the Samba Dancer of Santos, but he will not tell you unless he is compelled. You must go to his home and lie in wait, and when he returns from his night of drunken debauchery, you must grab hold of him and not let go. He will dance every dance that he knows, and you must match him step for step without releasing him, until he is exhausted and agrees to tell you what you wish to know. Do you understand?"
Pato stared at her blankly.
"Grab him and hold on and dance with him until he's tired and says he'll tell you where your goalscoring touch has gone and how to get it back," she said.
"I grab him and hold on and dance with him until he's tired and says he'll tell me where my goalscoring touch has gone and how to get it back," Pato repeated obediently.
"Very good," the goddess Barbara said. "Now go."
Pato turned to leave, then turned back. "But, Barbara," he said. "Where will I find the Samba Dancer of Santos?"
The goddess Barbara sighed. "In Santos, Pato."
"Oh, okay," Pato said. He turned around again and left, pausing only briefly to check his hair in the mirror on the wall.
"Mother was right," Barbara muttered. "Dumb and pretty has drawbacks after all."
As the goddess Barbara had instructed, Pato went to Santos and lay in wait for the Samba Dancer, and when he came stumbling back from the dance club at five in the morning, Pato leapt out and grabbed him in a ballroom dance hold. Just as Barbara had warned him, the Samba Dancer of Santos strove mightily to dance out of his arms, but Pato matched him step for step, until finally the Dancer collapsed against his chest. "All right, all right, I give up! I've been out dancing and doing shots all night, this totally isn't fair."
"But you give up?" Pato asked carefully, because it was always important to do exactly what the goddess Barbara said. "And you'll tell me what I want to know?"
"Yeah, yeah, fine. I'd make you ask what you want to know but I know everything so I know that already. Let me go, I need to sit down before I throw up, and trust me, jello shots do not look as pretty the second time around."
Pato released the Samba Dancer of Santos, who took a few tottering steps and collapsed on his couch. "Right. So, your goalscoring touch is gone because you have angered the god of the people of Sweden. You weren't paying attention to what you were doing, and you let Nesta dislocate his shoulder, and he was carried off to the underworld where players go when they retire. Zlatan was very upset. They hadn't even played a whole season together. So he went down into the underworld to bring Nesta back.
"At the entrance of the underworld is a mighty three-headed creature whose duty is to prevent any man whose name is still numbered amongst a first eleven from entering. The head on the left has a round face and dishwater-blond hair and pasty skin, and the head on the right has a round face and dark hair and dark skin, and the head in the center has very disreputable-looking facial hair, although Zlatan was hardly in a position to judge. Zlatan approached the beast and said,
"'I am Zlatan, and I am a god to the people of Sweden, and I have come to the underworld to find Alessandro Nesta and bring him back with me. Let me pass.'
"The creature shook its middle head, which said, 'Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we guard the country of retired souls. None who yet plays may enter here. Return when you are too old and crippled to hobble off the bench, even in Italy, even for Milan, and then we shall let you pass.'
"'I am Zlatan,' said Zlatan, 'and you will let me pass now.' And then he kicked the creature in each of its three heads.
"The creature did not fall down dead or even unconscious as Zlatan had expected, since he had a great deal of experience in kicking people in the head. However, it is a little known fact that to the three-headed beast that guards the underworld, a kick in the head is truest gesture of friendship that exists. It did not fall, but all three heads began to weep tears of a shared love of manly violence, and it did embrace Zlatan with all six of its arms, saying,
"'At last, one who understands us!'
"'At last, a true companion of our soul!'
"'Oh my friend, I am so happy I could bite you!'
"'I am Antonio!'
"'I am Rodney!'
"And the last head, whose name is Rino, bit Zlatan on the shoulder, for he was too overwhelmed with emotion to speak. So Zlatan was allowed to pass into the underworld by the three-headed guardian, and next found himself at the River of Penalties Missed. On the near shore was the boat which ferries footballers to the long retirement from which none returns, and within the boat was the ferryman. Zlatan approached him and said,
"'I am Zlatan, and I am a god to the people of Sweden, and I have come to the underworld to find Alessandro Nesta and bring him back with me. Bring me across the river.'
"'I am SuperPippo,' said the ferryman, 'and I travel many times a day between the realm of the active and the realm of the retired. But the souls of the unretired are too heavy. I do not have the strength to row you across.'
"'Do you not?' asked Zlatan. 'Indeed that is a shame, for I brought you this Scudetto as payment for your labor. But if it is impossible - '
"'Impossible is nothing,' snapped the ferryman, already holding out his hands. 'Give that to me, and I will take you across the river. Oh, my precious darling,' he cooed, cradling the trophy in his hands. Zlatan climbed into the boat, which immediately sank so low in the water that it lapped over the sides. 'Sit still,' ordered SuperPippo. He placed the Scudetto safely in the middle of the boat, took up his oars, and with great effort rowed to the other shore.
"Once he climbed ashore, Zlatan made his way to the court of the Dread Lord Guardiola, who rules over retired souls. And when at last Zlatan stood before the Dread Lord and his Queen, he said,
"'I am Zlatan, and I am a god to the people of Sweden, and I have come to the underworld to find Alessandro Nesta and bring him back with me. Bring him to me, and let us return to the world above.'
"'That's all very interesting,' said Dread Lord Guardiola. 'But why exactly should I do that?'
"'I am Zlatan,' Zlatan repeated. 'Small Swedish children sing paeans to my prowess with a football. And I will fuck your wife if you don't.'
"'He's rather good-looking,' said Figo, Queen of the Trolls. 'I like a strong nose. I'd probably let him, if it came down to it.'
"'Oh, fine,' said Dread Lord Guardiola. 'Alessandro Nesta, whoever you are, you are free to follow this hooligan back to the upper world.'
"'Just remember, don't look back!' Queen Figo shouted after them, trolling, as was his nature.
"And as was thus inevitable, having passed again through the gates and across the river and up to the entrance where his three-headed friend awaited, as he passed the threshold into the world above, Zlatan glanced back to make certain that Nesta was behind him and broke his compact with the Dread Lord and his Queen.
"'You stupid fucking fuck!' said Nesta. 'Why the fuck did you do that? Now I have to go back and be retired forever! Fuck you!'
"'Fuck me?' said Zlatan. 'Fuck you, you fucking pussy! What, do you want to be retired forever?'
"'Of course not, you dumb fuck!' said Nesta.
"'Then why don't you fight to stay, you stupid useless piece of shit!'
"And so Nesta threw himself at Zlatan in an attempt to strangle him, but try as he might, Zlatan could not carry him across the threshold into the world of the unretired. 'I AM ZLATAN!' he shouted. 'I AM A GOD TO THE PEOPLE OF SWEDEN, AND I CAME TO BRING ALESSANDRO NESTA BACK WITH ME, AND I WILL NOT LEAVE WITHOUT HIM! I WILL DESTROY YOUR FUCKING ARMIES OF TIKI-TAKA MIDGETS! I WILL FUCK YOUR SISTER! ALL OF YOUR SISTERS! AND YOUR DAUGHTERS, AND ANY AT LEAST MODERATELY GOOD-LOOKING COUSINS, AND - '
"'For the love of Paolo Maldini,' said Dread Lord Guardiola. 'Just take him and go, so long as you never come back.'
"And that is the story of how Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought Alessandro Nesta back from the underworld."
"Oh," said Pato. "But if he got Nesta back in the end, why is he still angry at me?"
"Ah," said the Samba Dancer of Santos. "That's just because he doesn't like your face. Sacrifice a pelican, a swordfish and an unusually large ass to the god of the people of Sweden and pray for forgiveness, and your goalscoring touch will return."
And so Pato did, and they all lived happily ever after, or at least until his next stupid mistake.