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Can Ibrahimovic fit in at Barca after Super Cup showing?
Barcelona’s new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given a glowing report by Pep Guardiola after their Spanish Super Cup victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
But the doubts remain as to whether his qualities will be enough to replace or improve upon those the side have lost with the swap deal which sent former number nine Samuel Eto’o to Inter Milan.
The Swedish striker lined up from the start between Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry for the first time, and helped Barca sweep aside the visitors 3-0 to win the curtain-raiser to the new season 5-1 on aggregate.
Messi grabbed the headlines with a brace, and Ibrahimovic’s second-half replacement, Bojan Krkic, added the other goal.
“Ibrahimovic was perfect,” Guardiola said. “Everyone is worried about how he will pressure our rivals’ defences, but I have no doubts.
“Because he’s so tall he doesn’t appear very dynamic, but he will pressure as required for the team. Step by step he will adapt to our needs.”
Ibrahimovic linked up well with his team mates showing some wonderful touches, came close to scoring his first goal on a couple of occasions, and won huge cheers from the fans.
He laid off the ball for Messi’s opener and his physical presence and aerial threat give Barca a new dimension up front. But will they miss Eto’o’s aggression and that ruthless streak in front of goal?
Eto’o netted Barca’s opening goals in both their Champions League final victories against Arsenal and Manchester United.
“Without Eto’o Barca look different, with less of the fire that he gave them, but Ibrahimovic is going to have a fantastic partnership with Messi,” Alfredo Relano wrote in sports daily AS.
Bilbao coach Joaquin Caparros had his reservations: “Barca’s rivals will be able to play out from the back more easily because Eto’o pressured them more. He was a pest.”
It’s early days still, but Ibrahimovic and Barca will need to click quickly with an expensively reconstructed Real Madrid raring to go when the season starts next weekend.