Yes that’s right. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, aka football’s greatest journeyman, has to be one of the most over-rated footballers in the world.
Okay to look at his footballing CV at a quick glance you’ll probably disagree instantly. He’s been with Inter Milan, AC Milan and Barcelona. Now he’s at French giants PSG. Wherever he’s been he’s scored goals – and lots of them. So how can a striker who scores goals be over rated?
To me, whenever I watch Ibrahimovic in a big match he nearly always disappoints. Against England in a recent international he was hailed for scoring some sublime goals and a world class hat-trick. I can’t deny Zlatan moments like this – he can turn on a lot of style, and he can score memorable goals. But I think this is his main problem – he tries too hard to be perfect. He’s always trying to be fancy and to try unbelievable tricks – when 8/10 times he ends up giving the ball away.
Watching his performance last night against former side Barcelona, remember this is a side whom Zlatan spent his most unhappy season ever, usually sat on the subs bench, and having dedicated about 3 chapters of his autobiography to the club you’d expect the player to be pumped up and ready to put in the best performance of his life in order to prove the club wrong. To me, this didn’t happen. Of course someone of his size and physical presence caused problems to Barcelona – when you’re his size you can’t help but cause aerial problems, this is a fact. But so many times his touch was heavy, his decision was poor, he gave the ball away when PSG were trying their hardest to counter Barca and grab a crucial lead.
My irritation with Zlatan is that he’s a master showman, a real marketing guru. I think he manages to pull the wool over so many people with his oh-so-occasional glimpses of actual genuine ability. To many English football fans who saw his bicycle kick a few months back, they probably believe he’s the greatest footballer in the world simply for this goal. He can probably retire on this goal alone. But then for every goal like this that he does score, he’ll send a thousand more blazing over the bar and into the crowd. People seem to be quick to forget the occasions when he does lose the ball, simply choosing to remember the one time when he scored a lucky, offside goal to equalise against Barcelona with nearly the last kick of the game.
That sums up the player in my eyes. He has a very very average match, in a very very important game of the season, and yet somehow manages to worm his way into the tabloid headlines by toepoking the equalising goal and to bring his side into the Nou Camp all square at 2-2.
I’ve no personal issues against Zlatan. I just can’t believe the hype that surrounds the player at times. He’s not a big game player in my eyes – sure, he’ll score buckets against lower quality opposition and he’ll have some occasional moments of sheer brilliance but for all of these moments there will be 10 times as many where he simply falls over, tries something too elaborate, or just gives the ball away.
The one occasion where I felt maybe I was wrong about the player was when Pep Guardiola made the decision to sign him, for a huge transfer sum. I really couldn’t see how he’d suit the style of Barca – he seemed a square peg in a round hole. Barcelona have probably the most famous playing style in the world, maybe even in football history, and yet Zlatan was unable to adapt. When he arrived he felt that Pep should adapt the side to suit himself, but everyone knows this isn’t how Pep or Barca work. Ibrahimovic wasn’t willing to adapt to this style, instead wanting to be the focal point and target man of the side. The most frustrating thing is that surely he could have adapted, he has the ability. But to me Zlatan Ibrahimovic is too lazy, too selfish and too self-centered to ever be considered a real great footballer. He’s a master of self-promotion, nothing more nothing less.