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‘Ted Lasso’s Outlandish New Footballer Was Inspired by a Very Real Sports Star

Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca Welton, Maximilian Osinski as Zava, and Anthony Stuart Head as Rupert Mannion in Ted Lasso season 3 episode 2

Ted Lasso season 3, episode 2, aptly titled “(I Don’t Want To Go to) Chelsea,” introduces a new pro footballer to the show. With Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham)’s hopes to make it to the top of the Premier League leaderboard at stake, the team is adamant about finding new talent. So, when an opportunity to snatch up a top player presents itself, Rebecca—and every other London-based club—tries to offer him an opportunity he can’t resist.

Happily, and much to Dani (Cristo Fernández)’s delight, Rebecca manages to steal this prime footballer, named Zava, right from under her ex-husband’s nose. It’s one of the most satisfying moments of the show so far and sets Zava up as a major player for the rest of Ted Lasso season 3. So who plays Zava, and is he based on any real-life footballers?

Who plays Zava in Ted Lasso season 3?

Zava wears his sunglasses during all his scenes in his first episode of Ted Lasso, so it may be hard to recognize him. The footballer is played by Maximilian Osinski, an Austrian-born American actor perhaps best known for his recurring role as Agent Davis in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. His other acting credits include stints on shows like The Walking Dead: World Beyond, New Amsterdam, and Shameless, among others.

Is Zava based on a real-life footballer?

Ted Lasso references many real-life football clubs, players, managers, and events, despite AFC Richmond being a fictitious club (no matter how much we may wish it was real). Though Zava is quite an outlandish and comedic character, his football background, “diva” status, and appearance do bear a resemblance to Zlatan Ibrahimović, one of Sweden’s top strikers.

Zlatan Ibrahimović, much like Zava, also played at Juventus, their hairstyles are eerily similar (not to mention the facial hair), and they both often refer to themselves in the third person. So far, Zava has proven to be quite outspoken with a flair for drama, much like Ibrahimović himself. Ted Lasso season 3 also references his club-hopping career: where Zava has played for 14 clubs in 15 years, Zlatan Ibrahimović played for 10 clubs over 24 years. Though this is not quite as nomadic as Zava’s football journey, the similarities are certainly stacking up.

How Zava will affect Richmond’s close-knit dynamic remains to be seen, though Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) seems to be apprehensive about the world-class striker joining the team. Is that just because Jamie’s used to being the star player, or has his emotional growth made him worried about the team’s overall bond and cohesiveness? A mix of both, probably. But whatever happens next, it’s sure to be a wildly hilarious yet emotionally cathartic ride.

(featured image: Apple TV+)

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El (she/her) has been working as a freelance writer for various entertainment websites for over a year, ever since she successfully completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including franchises like Marvel and Pokémon, but she is happy to pitch in with gaming content once in a while if it concerns one of the few video games she actually knows anything about. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.