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Ibrahimovic is the Best in the World: Yes or No?

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Now regular listeners to the Italian Football FanCast and the Manchester United Football FanCast will be very aware of my liking for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, some of my colleagues would even call it a blind obsession. After weeks of mockery, I have decided to take it upon myself to explain why I think Zlatan is truly world class and up there with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. So be prepared for some statistics!

He is a player that has everything, his 6’3 and a half inch frame holds within it, a talent that many of us can only dream of. He possesses pace, movement, sublime finishing ability, the dexterity to try then ultimately pull off the unexpected and amaze his watching audience. All this is complemented by a footballing intelligence that can only be described as extraordinary.

This season in Serie A, Ibrahimovic has been at his most prolific scoring 25 goals in 35 games adding 7 assists, that’s 0.7 goals per game. He is the reigning Capocanonniere. Comparing this to Nicolas Anelka, the Premierships top scorer with 19 goals in 33 games, 0.54 goals per game. Granted the likes of Samuel Eto’o, and Lionel Messi boast better records, but it must be noted, La Liga is much more open tactically compared to Serie A, thus leading to more goal scoring opportunities.

His record for Sweden is also impressive, 21 goals in 56 games, in addition to his 6 goals in 7 games for the U21’s. With all due respect, Sweden aren’t exactly setting the world alight with their scintillating brand of football and thus adds weight to a very good scoring rate at international level.

It is not only his scoring record that is worth looking at, on the most part his performances have been excellent and in some cases breathtaking. A mention has to go to the manner in which he scores his goals, most notably his near post back heel flick against Bologna, the free-kick he blasted in against Fiorentina and the sublime ‘edge of the box’ chip against Reggina. Plus the final day back heel, which showcased his strength, touch and ability to pull off the unexpected.

Ibra began his career at local team FBK Balkan, and on one occasion a 10 year old Ibrahimovic was a second half substitute, at which point FBK Balkan were losing 5-0, Zlatan went on to score 8 and his team won. Ibra-cadabra indeed. Transferred between Malmo, Ajax, Juventus and Inter for a combined total of €50 million, it was money well spent as far as I’m concerned.

On his Champions League debut in 2002 he scored 2 goals for Ajax against Lyon and in the same season scored what can only be described as a wondergoal against NAC Breda, later voted goal of the season by Eurosport. He dribbled past the whole defence took the ball round the keeper, put another 3 or 4 players on there backsides and slotted the ball home, beyond the shadow of a doubt the work of a marvel.

He then went on to play for Juventus and was an instant hit with the Bianconeri, with 16 goals in his first season. Although in his second and final season with Juve, his form dipped and eventually forced his way out of the club after the Calciopoli scandal, moving to the club he supported as a boy, FC Internazionale.

It is in Milan that Irbahimovic has blossomed and become and integral part to the Inter juggernaught. Last season he managed to bag 22 goals in 33 games including 5 goals in 7 starts in the Champions League. It must also be noted that Ibra had 24 shots of which 7 were on target in the Champions League, what that tells you is … if you give him a chance he will score.

He has often been criticised for his performances against the big clubs and especially those in the Champions League. Statements which bear fruit when you consider he has never scored in the knockout stage of Europe’s premier club competition. This aside, I will put forward a case for his defence. This player is one that is arguably his team’s only attacking threat; nullify Ibrahimovic and Inter become somewhat impotent in attack.

Pressure on him to perform has resulted in a player that can it be said, ‘tries too hard’ in the so-called ‘big’ games. Instead of just playing his natural game, he seems intent creating and scoring all on his own in an attempt to prove to all his doubters that he is indeed the best player in the world. Although Jose Mourinho already deems this to be the case.

Zlatan however, does have his shortfailings, he is a supremely confident young man, when asked what could stop him becoming the best player in the world he replied with only one word “injury” then asked to describe himself in three words … his retort, “I am brilliant”. A statement I agree with wholeheartedly.

In more recent times he has voiced his desire to move from the peninsula, stating: “I don’t know what else I can still do in Italy, other than keep going and build a collection. We’ll see. Now there are two internationals with Sweden and then we’ll wait and see what happens. The future? I don’t know. If something is going to happen, it will be after this match. We will see, I don’t know yet”.

In my view Zlatan would only go to a top club, and with no disrespect to any other teams in Spain that means Barcelona or Real Madrid. At both teams he would score more goals get more assists and ultimately become a Ballon d’Or winner.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a magician, a talisman and an enigma but even so he is undeniably one of the finest players on this small blue planet and if he does leave it would be a massive loss to Inter and Calcio as a whole.

Comments (21)

  1. One thing about Ibrahimovic and his perceived arrogance, my personal opinion is that it’s, in a big part, an intentional finger to the dominant Swedish mentality. Having lived in Sweden for close to 6 years I am still amazed by the Swedish “we’re so small, we can’t be any good” mentality despite some incredible sporting achievements for a rather small country.

    Zlatan (as he’s usually referred to in Sweden) seems to enjoy to appear arrogant partly because it stuns the home population as well as almost anyone – in general you’re not allowed to have faith in your own ability. Sporting profiles seem to be required to be humble beyond anything normal – Zlatan defies this and is therefore seen as arrogant.

  2. Of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the best of the world in the moment. If you see his performances in the Internazionale team you will see why I say this. It’s amazing seeing this wonderful and skillful player playing and making his opponents cry for no more XD
    I also think that for all his work after years that he deserves the award of The Best Football Player In The World Of 2009.

  3. wow, if Ibra moves to Madrid…then you’ll have Ronaldo who is the pretty boy diver but brilliant player, Kaka who is the humble servant forced to help his old Milan team by signing with a new one, and then Ibra the magician who thinks he is brilliant… Real Madrid – THE Telenovela to Watch. hahaha

  4. Interesting thoughts, Dov. At certain points this season I’ve said the very same thing, but the more I see Barcelona (in particular Messi and Xavi), the more I think some players just have the edge.

    Would’ve been great to see Ibrahimovic in a more competitive Serie A.

  5. He is not even close to the top ten players in the world.Messi,Iniesta,Gerald,Xavi,Ronaldo,Etoo,Villa,Torres,Kaka,Forlan.Ibra is a lazy big game flop. He is skillful no doubt but has to prove himself in big games.

  6. pffffffffft

  7. I agree, Zlatan is world class and would be a first teamer
    for any club in the world. Better than Ronaldo and Messi?
    Not too sure.

    With regards to his arrogance, I remember an Italian
    commentator saying his arrogance isn’t Swedish but Balkan.

  8. Ibra is a better plaeyr then Etoo, Torres, Forlan for sure

    If I had to rank the players in fidel’s list, I’d say Messi and Ronaldo are head and shoulders above the rest. Then comes Gerard, perhaps the most all round player in the world and then Ibra. Ibra scores tonnes, creates tonnes. Frankly speaking, hes the guy whos carrying Inter atm, a creative playmaker and world class striker rolled in one. If Ibra leaves, Inter would have to replace him with at least 3 players IMO.

    Xavi, Iniesta and Kaka come next for their sheer creative genious, and then torres who is brilliant as well but is more of a poacher and reliant on a creative midfield. Not sure about Forlan, definitely in the top 20 atm, but I don’t think I’d place him in the top 10 tbh.

  9. I’ve been following ibra for a while now and thought he had the potential to be world class. Theres just something missing though, probably that he doesnt produce in high profile matches – same complaint people had about ronaldo a while back.

  10. If Ibrahimovich is so great, answer this
    He has never scored nin the champions league knock out stage and he hasn’t scored for Sweden in over a year, i admit agaisnt italian teams he is great, but then agan which is the worst of the top 3 leagues at the moment, and how come he can never be as good against proper teams like Manchester and Chelsea and even Denmark on international level?

  11. Kev,

    You know he scored 2 days ago (for sweden), right?
    Granted, it was against the almighty Malta, but you have to change your sentence from “hasn’t” to “didn’t”.

    :p

  12. he is the best striker to replace eto if eto leave barca

  13. Ibra is very good – but I will always vote for Samuel Eto’o.

    Guardiola has pushed Samuel wide to give more room to Messi; despite this, Samuel continues to score with a very high ratio.

    In addition he is the man that brought the CL to Barcelona – twice. You will see – let him go and there will not be another CL title soon for Barca. Without him, no lion up front.

    Neither of the two compares by any means to Romario – this man was absolutely amazing.

  14. sorry but i have to agree that ibr doesnt proform in the big games e.g this yr champions league knockout stage against man u, torres is playing in the toughest comp in the world i think and the way he destroyed vidic when liverpool beat man u 4-1 it was unbelievable, some said torres made him look like an reserve player.

  15. As an Ajax-fan I always thought Zlatan both infuriating and brilliant in equal measure. He would dribble past 3 men only to lose the ball to the fourth, overlook better-positioned fellow players or waste the easiest of opportunities. And then displays of his brilliance would make it all worthwhile.

    Case in point, as mentioned in the article, that goal against NAC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgqsaDnsEq8 Worth it for the look on Rafael van der Vaart (who famoulsy didn’t get on with Zlatan)’s face at 0:38 alone.

  16. Zlatan is i great football player but he hasn’t really proved being a consistent goalscoring striker. I think that he is no way near as good as the likes of ronaldo or messi tbh.

  17. I think he is a great talent and a good player, but, like Fernando Torres from the Atletico days, he is a scorer of great goals against pitiful teams. Until he gets a strong run in a toplevel tournament (not Serie A post-scandal), his legacy will be a player capable of greatness

  18. LOOOL .. r u kiddin me ?? ibra the best in the world ???? LOL

  19. Zlatan is actually a good guy and has done a lot of community work back in his home town in Sweden. But he’s not the best in the world even at his position…I’d give that honour to as much as I hate to say it Torres at Liverpool.

    Messi and Iniesta are the worlds best in-form players at the moment with Ronaldo hot on their heels.

  20. zlatan= king.
    zlatan best striker nuff saidd! then eto’o.

  21. What a waste of money… Zlatan can never replace Eto…
    Lazy, cant score against big teams…