Euro 2012 Player Watch – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Posted on June 14, 2012 by Sam Cooke
Enigmatic. Arrogant. Temperamental. Flamboyant. Gifted. Zlatan has all the characteristics of a top player, good and bad. See George Best and Paul Gascoigne for others who fit this self-destructive category.
Ibrahimovic’s undeniable talent is one which Sweden fans are yet to see as much of as they’d care too however. Thus far in his career Ibrahimovic has suffered from the pitfall of many others in the past – an apparent yet inexplicable inability to translate glittering club form to great performances for his country.
But is that all about to change? Argentineans have criticised Lionel Messi for the same problem in the past, but of course it was only a matter of time before Messi forced them to eat their words. A hat trick against Brazil in a 4-3 victory the other day saw to that. So is it now Ibrahimovic’s turn to do the same?
A goal against Ukraine helped but as Sweden went onto lose a game in which they badly needed to take three points (France and supposedly England are tougher games remember) then it was not quite enough for Sweden, and certainly not on par with Messi’s hat trick.
In the past perhaps critics of Zlatan have had a point – at Euro 2008 there were few other players who covered less ground. They lambasted his laziness and stupefying abundance of self-belief but if the game against Ukraine showed anything, it’s that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has finally grown up.
After arguing with Marcus Rosenborg at half time, by the end of the game he became infuriated by his teammates who decided to go see their wives and girlfriends rather than warm down after a very disappointing performance. As captain Ibrahimovic is now leading by example, I should think that there will be no repeats of 2006 when Zlatan amongst others were sent home after breaking curfew and attending a nightclub two days before a qualifier.
This new hard working and dedicated Ibrahimovic is a major concern to Roy Hodgson and England; we simply do not have a striker who can match his natural ability (and yes I’m including Wayne Rooney), nor do we have the defenders to deal with him at his best.
Martin O’Neil once stated that Ibrahimovic is ‘the most over-rated player in the world’. Harsh certainly but the fact that he is no stranger to controversy does not help change the opinions of such critics. He’s been involved in numerous bust ups, including the time he threatened to break Rafael Van de Vaart’s legs and, perhaps most infamously, his falling out with Guardiola during his stint at Barcelona.
Zlatan was not a fan of the set up at Barca – his experience there and reaction to it can best be summed up in a section from his autobiography, “At Barca, players were banned from driving their sports cars to training. I thought this was ridiculous – it was no one’s business what car I drive – so in April, before a match with Almeria, I drove my Ferrari Enzo to work. It caused a scene.”
Flamboyant, tick. Arrogant, tick. On his bust up with Guardiola he stated ‘I thought ‘there is my enemy, scratching his bald head’ I yelled to him : ‘You have no balls!’ and worse than that’. Temperamental, tick. But to be fair you’ve gotta him give funny as well.
So it’s perhaps becoming clearer why some top managers do not think he’s worth the trouble, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is beginning to answer his critics the way he should have from the start; with consistently strong on pitch performances for club and country.
At AC Milan this year he scored 35 goals in 44 games. Under new Sweden manager Erik Hamren’s more attacking system Ibrahimovic is thriving; in his own words “Here, I get the chance to get the ball on my feet, turn around and attack with speed. That’s what I want to do.”
It seems there is no better time for Zlatan to prove to the world once and for all that he is one of the game’s greatest players. At Euro 2012 ‘Ibra’ has the chance to put his money where his mouth is once and for all and explain to all exactly why “An injured Zlatan is a pretty serious thing for any team.” (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, ‘I Am Zlatan’, 2012)
Odds for Sweden to beat England? 3.60 on Oddslife’s Euro 2012 Predictor!