England finally wakes up to Zlatan
Last night, Zlatan Ibrahimović gave England a footballing lesson. Sweden beat England 4-2 in a friendly in Stockholm. Zlatan scored all 4 of Sweden’s goals, including a very special fourth goal. Those who have followed his career know what he is capable of. He is both a “great scorer of goals” and a “scorer of great goals”. In the myopic world of English football journalism, the question mark around him has always been whether he could “do it on a rainy Tuesday night in Stoke”. Can he manage in vital games, and being non-English, can he deal with being kicked by an English defender?
In that regard, last night’s game changes nothing. It was a friendly to mark the opening of a new stadium. England manager Roy Hodgson said he was going to use the game to blood new youngsters. England were leading 1-2 until Hodgson made a few late substitutions, which Zlatan took full advantage of. He scored 4 goals in a game where nothing was on the line, as opposed to the Euro 2012 match up when Sweden lost and he didn’t score.
The accusation of going missing in big games is something that has been levelled at the big man for quite a while. Though if you look at any of the strikers who are regarded as world-class in the last ten years, this is something that could be said of many of them: Henry, Eto’o, Drogba, Rooney etc. Zlatan plays for a middling national side, one that are unlikely to ever be in a position to challenge for major honours. He’s still managed to score 39 goals in 85 games.
At club level, he has won league titles with 5 different clubs in 4 different countries (the titles he won with Juventus were subsequently rescinded, but this was hardly his fault), scoring nearly a goal every two games. It’s telling though that despite playing for recent Champions League winners Barcelona and Inter Milan, he has never won that title.
In the summer, at the age of 31, Zlatan took what will probably be the last big money move of his career. He joined nouveau-riche Paris Saint Germain, where he will receive a rumoured $12.5m a year. He stands a good chance of adding a couple of Ligue 1 titles to his trophy cabinet, but is highly unlikely to achieve his Champions League win.
Now that the English press are finally aware of who he is and what he is capable of, it is a shame to think that he will never play in the Premier League. There is no doubt he has the skills to excel and the thought of what he would do if he were spearheading Chelsea instead of Torres is a very exciting one. Maybe when the PSG experiment inevitably falls apart next summer, he will charitably decide to lower his wage expectations for the poverty of: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or (I can dream) Spurs.
Mark Cruise is a Soccer Writer for Rantsports. Follow him on Twitter: @chiefhairyman #rantsoccer