Is Zlatan Ibrahimović really over-rated?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the world’s most exciting and talented players – with stunning technique, vision, balance and raw skill, he is surely up there in the world’s top strikers for many coaches, pundits and fans alike. Add to this, he has won 8 league titles in a row in 3 different countries, a bucket load of individual accolades as well as scored 120 goals at the time of writing since the 2007/2008 season began (24 goals per season on average.) Yet, he is still dubbed as one of the most over-rated players in the world – why?
The main beefs certain critics have with Zlatan are:
- Not a big game player, especially in the Champions League.
- Highly inconsistent.
- Cocky attitude.
- Has been lucky with his career moves, hence his 8 league titles in a row.
- Mercenary – constantly changing clubs.
Is it fair to say Zlatan is not a big game player? For Barcelona, he wasn’t able to score the goal that would help them progress to the 2010 Champions League final at the expense of a defensive Inter Milan but neither did Lionel Messi.
He wasn’t influential in last year’s last 16 Champions League tie with AC Milan against Tottenham over the two legs either but that was mainly due to Heurelho Gomes pulling off a rare goalkeeping masterclass.
This season, after a plaudit-winning performance at the San Siro against Arsenal, he went missing at the Emirates Stadium for the return leg in which Milan were quite lucky to go through, but to be fair to him, the whole Milan team were bad.
Zlatan has performed in other big games – people fail to mention how he scored the title clinching goal for Inter Milan on the last day of the season against Parma in 2008.
How about scoring the winner for Barcelona against Real Madrid in 2009 in El Clásico to help move them ahead of Madrid and eventually win the title?
Or scoring the winner for AC Milan against former club, Inter Milan in the Derby della Madonnina in 2010 to virtually knock out their only remaining competitor out of the title race? Those are all without a doubt, big games.
As far as consistency is concerned, Zlatan doesn’t produce his magic on a weekly basis as Zinedine Zidane, for example did. However, Zlatan is a player who does well, when his team does well or maybe the other way around. There are many other great players who are in the same boat – Lionel Messi with Argentina is one prime example as well as Cristiano Ronaldo against Barcelona who has scored only 5 goals in 15 games against them.
Zlatan is also regarded as a small team bully – always scoring against the small teams but never frequently against the big teams. Well let me ask you this, as long as a striker scores for fun in 90% of the season’s games, wouldn’t you be satisfied? The same people shockingly criticize Cristiano Ronaldo for this, a player who has scored 100+ goals in less than 3 seasons with Real Madrid, with regard to his low goalscoring tally against Barcelona.
As for his attitude, many people may have a right to think he’s cocky – after all, he rejected an Arsenal trial as a teenager with his famous words, “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions,” but in his defense, he probably wouldn’t have gotten the first team action he desired. Zlatan also thinks he’s the world’s best player, “In my head I am the strongest of all. I certainly don’t need the Ballon d’Or to prove that I am number one.”
Of course, it’s a good thing to strive to be the best player in the world but cockiness can be avoided – after all, Zlatan is yet to win the Champions League or the Ballon d’Or like a certain Lionel Messi. But he does maintain the high opinion of many footballing names.
Former England coach, Fabio Capello compared Zlatan to Marco van Basten, labeling the two as ‘giants who are like poetry in motion‘ but has also mentioned that “because of his power and technique Zlatan will become stronger.“
Marco van Basten himself has agreed to Capello’s claims,
“We like playing well and scoring goals, sure. I too enjoyed myself with good assists. He [Zlatan] is more powerful, but he looks for short passes, one-twos. He is a great player.“
Lastly, AC Milan coach, Massimo Allegri has heaped praise on Zlatan as well,
“Ibrahimovi?? Hopefully he will win the Ballon d’Or, although much will depend on the results that we achieve this year. Along with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the three of them are at this moment the best players in the world.“
A certain criticism of Zlatan has been his career moves. People label him a mercenary who keeps shifting clubs for monetary reasons and that he can never be regarded as a legend as he never stays in the same club. Adding to this, his career moves have been ‘lucky’ as he’s won eight league titles in a row, maybe soon to be nine come May 2012.
This isn’t really the case – Juventus were relegated in 2006 due to match fixing allegations and a player of Zlatan’s ability isn’t meant to play in the 2nd division.
As for his Inter departure, Barcelona gave them a deal for him that they financially couldn’t resist.
Zlatan scored 22 goals and assisted 13 times in his first season at Barcelona but today, is wrongly termed as a Barcelona flop. His Barcelona career was short-term due to off-field issues with Pep Guardiola who in Zlatan’s words claimed, “you bought a Ferrari but drive it like a Fiat.” Contributing to 35 goals in your first season for a club like Barcelona is by no means a flop season performance-wise. Hence, there have been circumstances in his departures.
As for him being ‘lucky’, it’s not like Zlatan comes on as a substitute and does nothing. He has been the key reason his respective old clubs have won their league titles these last eight years – he has almost literally spearheaded them all to silverware.
Currently happy and settled with AC Milan, Zlatan sees things differently and his club changing as an ‘adventure’,
“I have made a lot of moves in my life — I take it as a challenge, an adventure. And I have won eight titles in eight years with different clubs in different countries. If you move to five different places it is a real test. If you succeed that’s when you become a real champion, that’s when you get more respect.“
In conclusion, there’s no denying Zlatan is a world class player – it’d be plain disrespectful to do so. He may not have won a Ballon d’Or or a Champions League medal, but he is a quality player and it’s his performances which have led to consecutive league titles and various cups for his respective/former teams. As mentioned earlier, a player who from 2007, averages 24 goals a season and has scored 120 goals is surely not over-rated, and only few strikers have a better goalscoring record. Ask any coach in the world and majority of them would love to have the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.