Ibrahimovic – Europe’s biggest enigma
During a typical football discussion at a Milan pub recently, a friend made a comment which really stayed with me.
“Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the closest there is to Van Basten.”
After thinking about it, I realised he was probably right. Ibrahimovic’s touch for a big man and his ability to score wonderful goals really do mark him out as special. It is right to talk of him in the same breath as one of Holland’s finest.
He scored two more, including a free kick, in Inter Milan’s 2-0 win over Fiorentina on Sunday. Inter are heading for a fourth straight Serie A title solely because of the Swede. Jose Mourinho knows it. Without Ibra, Inter would be fourth at best.
Yet in Europe, the former Ajax forward just can’t make an impression. He hit the bar in Wednesday’s Champions League elimination by Manchester United but he really should have scored. Two more excellent chances went begging.
Maybe it’s nerves, too much expectation. Maybe Serie A defences make him look better than he is.
We’ve talked on this blog before about how much better Lionel Messi, Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo are compared to the rest of the players in their leagues.
Ibra is easily Italy’s equivalent but soccer’s top personal honours will escape him unless he performs on the really big stage.
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PHOTO: The hand of Inter Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic touches the ball as he jumps before scoring past Fiorentina during their Serie A match at the San Siro, March 15, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo