A player with undoubted ability, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a player that too often has flattered to deceive. That Barcelona were willing to part with £57 million and send Samuel Eto’o off to Inter Milan in exchange made his signing for the European champions all the more surprising.
It is a struggle now, as it was then, to see how they got the better end of that particular deal, Eto’o, at just a year younger than Ibrahimovic, has made much more of an impact when needed most, two goals in winning Champions League Final’s an obvious example. As Eto’o is soon to play in yet another European Cup Final with Inter Milan, his decision to move now appears to have been a wise one.
Rumours currently sweeping Spain insist that Valencia’s David Villa will arrive at the Nou Camp this summer, in all likihood carrying his own hefty price tag. Barcelona may look to recoup some of their outlay with the sale of Ibrahimovic, whose transfer value at age 27 will continue to slide.
Barcelona may choose to sell him now whilst it’s at its highest. Is there enough room in the side to accommodate Villa, Ibrahimovic and Messi? Possibly. The success the club enjoyed with the tantalising trio of Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Messi show it can be done. David Villa, however, does most of his damage within the centre of the penalty area. To move him out wide into an attacking three would be to damage his effectiveness. Similarly Ibrahimovic is certainly not a player who likes to advance on goal from out wide.
If it came down to one of Villa or Ibrahimovic there is to be only one winner. The Spanish striker is a much more reliable player and goalscorer, a big game player who more often than not will have an impact in the games which decide a team’s destiny. The struggles at Valencia have meant he has not experienced much success at club level to date but his performances in the international arena for Spain are exceptional.
Too often has Ibrahimovic, particularly in Europe with previous clubs Inter Milan and Juventus, faded out of games and become a relative passenger in the battle ensuing around him. His surprising lack of ability at these times to find a way past the better defences and a lack of composure in front of goal have also been a flaw. Only in the game against Arsenal this season at the Emirates and in the El Clasico against Real Madrid has Ibrahimovic managed to score and affect the outcome of the big games.
Such is the quality of the Barcelona team that the onus is not constantly on him to produce the goods each and every game. If he is not to score, take your pick from Messi, Henry, Iniesta, Pedro and the rest. However, when playing at the very highest level, as Barcelona do each season, players are needed who guarantee a good performance. With Ibrahimovic and the temperament he carries there are no guarantees.
Questions thus remain over Ibrahimovic, even though he remains a very good player, representing possibly the best club team in the world is an indication of this fact. His goalscoring record at his previous clubs demonstrate impressive statistics, 16 goals in 28 games for Barcelona this season a great effort. Even with the signing of David Villa, I feel Ibrahimovic will be given more time to make his mark on the team. The huge transfer fee paid leaves Barcelona with little option but to persevere with the Swedish striker for at least another season and see their outlay bear fruit. The question of where he will end up if indeed he did leave is a very difficult one. There will not be many who can even afford to enter the bidding, such will be the amount Barcelona will look to recoup.
After the years spent in Italy he may well be tempted to return to Serie A, a league which he knows and a country in which he was obviously settled in. Alternatively his experiences in Italy and now Spain may turn his head towards England, the only top league in Europe exempt from his C.V. His size and stature will certainly make him an appealing option, a player who will deal well with the physical aspect of the Premier League as well as possessing that burst of speed that takes him clear of opposing defences. If he did become available, as recent media stories claim, Manchester City would no doubt be interested. Mancini knows the player well after managing him at Inter Milan and a transfer fee amounting to no more than loose change at Eastlands will confirm their place at the negotiating table. Other English clubs willing to pay the fee may be more problematic.
Chelsea are also said to have been offered Ibrahimovic by Joan Laporta but it appears doubtful why they would look to invest upwards of £40 million on a target man when they already have Drogba and Anelka in their ranks. The two clubs who perhaps would benefit most from his signing are Arsenal and Manchester United, both clubs who are missing the obvious target man, someone to compliment the array of nimble footballers in their line ups. Ibrahimovic however, remains a risk, especially if arriving in new surroundings. It could take some time for him to settle into the English game.
If placing bets on where Ibrahimovic will be come August, Barcelona remains the favourite…for now. For a player used to being on the move however, expect one or two more before his career ends. Much will depend on money, as always, and teams willing to pay the transfer fee as well as the huge wages he will no doubt demand. This really only leaves Manchester City. If he is to leave Barcelona however don’t rule out a return to Italy, most likely to previous club Juventus
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