It is but common for writers to use quotes made by famous ex-players or experts on an individual sports person when writing an article on that individual…but when it comes to this man, his own quotes are more apt and show the world, what sterner stuff he is made up of?
Yes it is the same man who replied to Arsene Wenger’s request for a trial invitation in 2001 by saying
“Zlatan does not do auditions”!
The two goals that he scored yesterday could not help his team through into the World Cup finals in Brazil as there was another footballer in the opposite team who scored a hatrick and that made all the difference. As a result, we may not be seeing one of the modern day football greats participating in a World Cup finals again – what a loss for the ardent football fan!
The greatness of the man lies in the fact that he accepts and admits to the fact that he may never play a World Cup finals again. If one has followed his footballing career, such admission coming from the man himself it is a huge mile stone in his off the field career. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, off the field punches are as spicy as they come. As controversy’s favourite child and the media’s popular target, the captain of the Swedish National Football team has seen it all. At 6ft 5 inches this football superstar’s story has all the qualities to make an Academy Award winning biographical movie on him. Have any of the Hollywood studios already bought the rights for “I am Zlatan”. For example: There are not too many players, managers or experts in the game today that can find a criticism of Pep Guardiola, Zlatan is an exception to that rule. He said, to the surprise of everyone else in the footballing world, Guardiola is “spineless”.
But today we try to pay a humble football fan’s tribute to what Zlatan is made of. Though born in Sweden Ibrahimovic was born to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother. Playing football with the other immigrant neighbours in Malmo increased his interest in the sport. Just before Starting off his career at Malmo FF, Sweden; Ibracadabra or Ibra as he is fondly called by his fans, was close to quitting his football career, in favour of working at the docks in Malmö, but his manager convinced him otherwise. That was when he was a 15 year old and until today the thought never came to his mind again. (Thanks to that manager, or else we would have lost watching a great footballer.) The best memory that one has of Ibra as a boy is of Ibra scoring 8 goals while coming on as a substitute when his team was 4 goals down. Probably that made the spark he had in him visible to the others, especially the scouts and managers looking for raw talent.
It is this talent that makes him think that he is the best that human race can produce for the sport of football. He scored hundreds of goals for all his clubs starting with Malmo and taking it forward with Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and now Paris Saint Germain. Of all his partnership with David Trezeguet at Juventus produced some of the most memorable goals of all time. In fact, comparisons were drawn frequently between Ibra’s style of play and one of the all-time legends of the sport “Marco Van Basten”. The understanding and chemistry that Marco had while playing with the legendary Frank and Rudd, can surely be compared with the style of Ibrahimovic. The great man himself accepted this in 2010 during Zlatan’s stint with AC Milan. Be it the 45th minute bicycle kick against Fiorentina to surpass that season’s top goal scorer for the club or Zlatan’s regular assists to Kevin Prince Boateng, his overall playing bravura was quite similar to that of AC Milan’s all-time great Van Basten’s. This talent is the reason why Zlatan will always stay way above the likes of Nicolas Bendtner and Mario Balotelli – Ibra always delivers on the pitchJ.
An year earlier at Barcelona, after a transfer fee that was worth 69.5 million Euros which included Samuel Eto’s exchange to Inter, he created a team record yet to be surpassed by scoring successively in his first 4 league matches. The beginning was good on the field, but it was his off the filled beginning which eventually caught up and made him look for an alternative sooner than what people expected. The very first time Zlatan turned up for a Barcelona practice session in his super luxury car, Guardiola took him to a side and advised him that all team members do no turn up in a Porsche or Ferrari, but need to use the official Audi car when turning up for practice – which obviously didn’t go down well with him. An injury to his thigh which made him sit out for three full weeks only to return in the later stages of the league only added to the friction he had with this club.
In spite of all the drama off the field, Ibra scored 16 league goals and helped Barcelona regain La Liga that season. This in spite of his manager Pep Guardiola not on talking terms with him for a full 5 months period. It is just left to our imagination as to how many he would have scored had he and Guardiola formed an understanding – that is one of the two questions that is going to be in every football fan’s mind as soon as one mentions Zlatan.
The other question is of course for a man of such talent why has he never played in the most famous league of them all – English Premier League. In fact he rejected offers from Manchester City and Liverpool. It is a pity that EPL which claims to attract the best talent has not done enough to ensure this “football sten stjärna” (“sten stjärna” = “rock star” in Swedish) has not played in the EPL. His skill, confidence and physical strength would have made him a very good player in the EPL. Few people have the right combination of mental and physical strength and Ibra is definitely high on that list!
As the legendary Johan Cryuff said, “Football is simple but nothing is more difficult than playing simple football” and the football that Zlatan plays is most difficult. Speed, power, accuracy combined with a thinking and active footballing brain makes him one of the most potent footballers of our time. With his quick movements on the ball, control over his acrobatic passes, his football has made him create records and he broke them himself…the 25 goals in a year while playing for Inter in 2008-09 season, was surpassed by his own 28 goals when he played for AC Milan a couple of seasons later. Thanks to the Calciopoli scandal, this football superstar moved out of Juventus the year the scandal broke out and there is no looking back since then. In fact even when he was with Juventus, the reason he did not come into prominence was because of his manager’s not selecting him for crucial ties and when included in the starting line-up he used him as an assist player rather than a striker; thus not utilising his best trait of “goal scoring”. Zlatan is like the force of nature, once unleashed you cannot have control on it, but only wait to check the damage done for statistical purposes.
Probably where Guardiola may have disliked about Zlatan was his problem with authority. Even the great coach did not realise that you cannot hold a twister in a bottle, the bottle will crack and all hell will break lose. The two things that Zlatan may have missed for whatever reasons are the Champions League victory and the World Cup success. The only player to score for six different clubs in the Champions League has never laid his hands on the silver-ware. Though in 2002 he was used only as a substitute in the dying minutes of the two matches he appeared in, he did not score in the 2006 World Cup finals when Sweden were knocked out in the round of 16. The former he surely still has a chance with PSG now or with any other top European club that he may join later; but for the latter, it will be left to the imagination of football fans like us as to what destruction this rockstar would have left on the history of World Cup especially considering he is prime form this season.
With a few more years left in him at the highest level, Zlatan’s style of football will be nothing short of magnificient. To quote him again “it is a fairy tale with him” in the lead. You love him you hate him, you sure cannot afford to ignore him!!! Zlatan is and will be the footballer with the attitude and lifestyle of a Rockstar. Sportz Cosmos salutes the spirit of this great sports superstar and rightly awards him the title Football Sten Stjärna, which he truly deserves.