This week, Barcelona completed their protracted purchase of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Internazionale. The extraordinary cost of getting their man was £40m cash, Samuel Eto’o, and a year’s loan of Alex Hleb, after which time they have an £8.6m purchase option.
This is an enormous amount to pay for a man who I have never ever seen have a good game. I should clarify here, I am not really arguing that Ibrahimovic is rubbish – he can’t be – but that in my admittedly limited experience, he is all mouth and no boots.
There is a serious point here because although I will freely admit I’m hardly a connoisseur of Serie A games, where Ibrahimovic appears to excel, I do watch a lot of Champions’ League football. In the last five or six years, I have not once seen him do anything of any note. Is it then appropriate to tar him with the same brush that so often used to stick to his new Barca teammate Thierry Henry? That he is not a “big game player.”
Ibrahimovic had been in Italy since 2004, when he moved to Juventus. He had two seasons there which, at least initially, brought two league titles. When the Calciopoli bribery scandal came to light, Juve were stripped of their last two titles and relegated to the second division. Zlatan jumped ship and moved to Internazionale, recently crowned champions by default.
In his three years at Inter, he has won three titles, was named Footballer of the Year in 2008, and he won the Italian Golden Loafer last season. So Ibrahimovic is clearly not complete knickers – Roberto Mancini, Jose Mourinho, and now Pep Guardiola have placed him at the spearhead of their attacks.
However, Eto’o was also top domestic scorer last year in a much better league, and has consistently been the most successful centre-forward in Spain for the last six or seven years. It is extraordinary that Barca not only rate Ibrahimovic as better than Eto’o, but £40m better.
Eto’o only had one year remaining on his contract, and has agitated for a move previously, so perhaps Barca were happy to cut their losses and move on to a new pivot for their incomparable attack. Not averse to the self-eulogy, Eto’o said, “I made history at Barcelona but that chapter is over.”
Ibrahimovic also has a legendary self-regard. This is no bad thing, as Eric Cantona proved. You have to admire a man who once said in a post-match interview, “there is only one Zlatan.”
He is very popular in Sweden, and well regarded in Italy, but his admirers appear to be restricted to these countries (and Barcelona). If he can prove his class in Spain, I’ll gladly eat my words, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s hapless.
2. Dimitar Berbatov. 28th May 2009
1. Nicklas Bendtner. 8th May 2009