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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: An Ideal Striker?

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – NOVEMBER 14: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden celebrates scoring his third goal during the international friendly match between Sweden and England at the Friends Arena on November 14, 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden.

The occasion was a friendly match between bitter rivals Sweden and England in Stockholm’s newly built Friends Arena. The turf was new and the atmosphere perfect for a football match. The match was about to end with ninety minutes on the clock and Sweden in a healthy position to win, thanks to the inspired performance by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

At this moment, something unnatural happened. An attempted long ball by the defender was just too long to reach for Ibra but his persistence and quality to read the game helped him reach Joe Hart‘s header, which was eventually turned into the net courtesy a fantastic overhead volley by him. He had only one thing in his mind:

“I am going to score”.

That goal was one for the record books and the whole footballing fraternity was compelled to talk about the same. His instincts, skills and courage were put to the test and he excelled with flying colours. It triggered this thought in my mind:

“Is Ibra an ideal striker or, in other words, a complete striker?”

At that instant, images of the greatest complete strikers of all time came to my mind. Right from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Germany, to the Dutchman Marco van Basten or Ronaldo of Brazil,  intimidating me to technically analyze the above question.

Over the years the roles of strikers have been modified and adapted to the style of play of the team. But a complete striker can adapt to any of these roles since he possesses the different traits required for different positions. Obviously, the different positions of a striker require different types of skill sets. So the question that arises next is :

“What skills should a complete striker possess?”

PARIS, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 18: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain celebrates scoring the first goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and FC Dynamo Kiev at Parc des Princes on September 18, 2012 in Paris, France.

The answer lies in the different roles that a modern day striker plays. Analyzing these roles and corresponding skills it is possible to judge the caliber of any striker. Some of these important roles are:

  • He needs to hold the ball long enough for support to arrive
  • He should score from just half a chance in the narrowest of spaces.
  • The ability to beat defenders of his dribble and create the space to score.
  • Win headers within the box from the strongest and sturdy defenders.
  • Innovation to score
  • Create space for himself via his threatening runs.

Now the skills I mentioned can be described in a single word:

  • Ball Control
  • Finishing
  • Dribbling and Skill Moves
  • Heading
  • Acrobatic and Athletic
  • Positioning

Throughout his career Ibra has given us a number of goals for the all-time great collection by demonstrating the skills mentioned above. There is no need to mention the Euro Goal of the Year he scored for Ajax. It was a rightful demonstration of his close control, brute strength, flexibility, vision and finishing (click here).

The acrobatic passes made and athletic goals scored by him at Inter are just like the icing on the cake. (click here for goal) (pass). At Barcelona he adapted to the figure of a typical finisher, winning headers and taking up great positions, since the other part of picking out a pass was carried out efficiently by two of the greatest passers of all time.

SEVILLE, SPAIN – AUGUST 14: : Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) of Barcelona celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Supercopa, first leg, match between Sevilla and Barcelona at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on August 14, 2010 in Seville, Spain.

At Inter and Barca he was a menace for defenders with his runs and finishing through his innovative creation of space and lethal strikes. The list of goals is unending, as he now makes his entry in the French Ligue with PSG, where he will surely score more sensational goals.

Furthermore, the stats themselves speak a lot about his capabilities. He has won the league for each of the clubs he has played for in his career, which makes it a total of seven different Clubs during his 11 year career. This makes him an asset for any team he is playing with. Winning the league so many times gives us a glimpse of the fitness and team player qualities. This is a huge plus in today’s football with players succumbing to injuries and having squabbles with team mates more often.

It’s left to the fans to decide whether the fourth goal against England was his all-time great, but all we can do is hope that as long as Ibra plays football he constantly gives us great moments like these to savour.

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