Who Is Zava in Ted Lasso Based On? Maximilian Osinski’s Role Explained

The road for Ted Lasso‘s A.F.C. Richmond, through its first three seasons, has always been pretty clear. Season 1: Richmond gets demoted from the English Premier League. Season 2: Richmond gets promoted back into the English Premier League.

So that means Season 3 should mean… Richmond wins the English Premier League, right? Sure seems that way. But given that the EPL is, well, just about the most competitive soccer league on the planet—and while Richmond is a fictional team, they face off against real-life powerhouses like Manchester City and Chelsea—any team that was previously facing relegation is going to need some serious reinforcements to realistically have a chance at finishing atop the table.

Enter Ted Lasso‘s most compelling new character in Season 3: Zava. Zava is a world-class striker coming over from the Italian league to the EPL (because his wife watched The Office, we learn), and after a flirtation with both Chelsea and Rupert’s (Anthony Head) West Ham, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) convinces him to come to Richmond instead of those other clubs as a way to truly prove his greatness.

Zava is the type of player that a small club like Richmond doesn’t usually get the chance to acquire. And his signing with them immediately catapults them to a new level of contention. But we also know that Zava is an agent of chaos; before he signed on, Higgins (Jeremy Swift) revealed that he’s played for 14 teams in the last 15 seasons, leaving nothing but chaos and trophies in his wake. Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) agrees: the man is crazy, but he will win you games.

Clearly his presence will be a major piece of Ted Lasso Season 3. But will it end well? That much remains to be seen.

Zava is a world-class striker—and he’s now playing for A.F.C. Richmond.

zava ted lasso

Colin Hutton

Season 3, Episode 3 showed Zava’s implementation into the A.F.C. Richmond culture, which immediately resulted in a lengthy winning streak and (almost) all of his teammates buying into his eccentric ways; see the above image of Richmond joining Zava in a group meditation session.

The word “almost” is there because Richmond’s old star player, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) isn’t quite convinced. Yes, Jamie is just a bit jealous that he’s been supplanted as the team’s player, but Jamie has also come a long way since from his selfish ways in Season 1, and he makes a fair point that the team had a good thing going.

Things could go a few different ways. Jamie, now training with Roy in an attempt to once again become the team’s best player, could make for a dynamic duo with Zava, further improving Richmond’s chance at the title. Zava could also implode, as we’ve heard much already about the chaos and madness that he often leaves behind when he’s done scoring lots and lots of goals.

End of the day? Seems like between managing the team and managing the egos, Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is going to have his work cut out for him.

Zava is based on Zlatan Ibrahimović

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Francesco Pecoraro//Getty Images

It seems very obvious that Zava is the Ted Lasso universe’s version of real-life world-class striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, who currently plays for A.C. Milan, but has also played for eight other clubs (and a previous stint with Milan) in his 20+ year career. Like Zava, Ibrahimović is an absolutely elite striker who’s scored more than 400 goals in his club career.

Ibrahimović is also an interesting guy much in the same way as Zava in Ted Lasso. In 2003, he trademarked his first name, Zlatan, and has used it to sell products from hair care to beer to clothing. He also has, well, an interesting way of talking about himself.

In a 2018 interview with BBC Radio 5, Ibrahimović said that his wife only allows for one photo of him to be hung up in their home. He chose a photo of his feet. “There is one of my feet on the wall,” he said. “That is what has given us what we have, it is a reminder for the family, not for me, of what we have.”

Sounds like someone we’ve seen on Ted Lasso, does it not?

Zava is played by Maximilian Osinski

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Steve Granitz//Getty Images

Zava is played by Austrian-born American actor Maximilian Osinski, who fans may recognize from his 27 appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s also appeared in a guest capacity in shows such as Shameless, the rebooted MacGyver, and New Amsterdam. On the big screen, he’s been in the (American) football movie The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, the Anne Hathaway/Jake Gyllenhaal film Love & Other Drugs and the Tom Hanks-starring Greyhound.

Osinski is married to actress Dichen Lachman, who has played major roles in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Dollhouse, and Altered Carbon, but is probably best known right now for her role as Ms. Casey in Severance.

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Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

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