It was the move rumoured for weeks and now the player himself has confirmed it’s happening: Zlatan Ibrahimović will finally be making his way to the Premier League to join Manchester United on a free transfer. The much debated UK weekly contribution to the EU budget may pale in comparison to Ibrahimović’s rumoured wages at Old Trafford. Of course, that’s tongue-in-cheek, but in all seriousness, the board will expect shirt sales to recoup a significant portion of their outlay and United fans will likely not care because they have a genuine world football superstar in their midst.
Finance and hype aside, will a 34 year old Ibrahimović really be worth all the fuss?
Obviously, hype and Ibrahimović go hand in hand, so arguably you have the world’s most hyped player coming to the world’s most hyped league. His interviews alone should be fantastic entertainment. It is a move that will create a buzz and interest in a season that is already eagerly anticipated just for having Guardiola, Klopp, Mourinho, Wenger and Conte all managing the Premier League’s top clubs.
I know United fans who were already salivating at the prospect of Mourinho managing their team and to now add Zlatan just fuels their confidence further. The last time the two linked up was 2008/09 at Inter Milan and that worked rather well. That was the season that Ibrahimović had one of his most prolific in Serie A, scoring 25 goals in 35 games to help Inter become Champions. To expect a repeat eight years later with Ibrahimović fast approaching 35 could be a bit of a stretch, but their mutual respect and similar brashness might just make them a formidable pairing.
That brashness, cockiness or the flat out arrogance as some call it is likely to stir things up and it’s not just his propensity to refer to himself in the third person. Ibrahimović is not a stranger to controversy from fights and accusations of violent behaviour to arguments and abuse, his self-confidence knows no bounds. It’s been flashpoints that have not only been with opponents, but with team mates as well.
Putting the money, hype, arrogance and controversy aside, he is an excellent footballer who’s had a great career. Although I’ve never doubted his ability, I wouldn’t consider myself one of his ‘fan-boys’ or greatest advocates. His most productive years in Italy came after the Juventus scandals and when Serie A was no longer of the standing it once was. That’s not to say Italian football was of a very poor standard, but it was no longer standard bearer it once was. I know some may disagree or dislike me for saying this, but his one season in a top league at the height of its powers was his solitary year at Barcelona, where he scored 16 La Liga goals in 29 games and was shipped out by Guardiola for attitude issues. Since then, he has been very successful at PSG, but the level in France is unquestionably low.
Let me get this straight, I am not trying to discredit Ibrahimović the player or his record, just trying to put it into some context and perhaps express my disappointment that he didn’t try his hand at a different club in Spain or move to the Premier League sooner to really test himself at his peak.
In all he has amassed an impressive 122 Serie A goals in 219 games at Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan. For many, his 113 league goals in 122 games for PSG will sadly always have the asterisk next to it, but there can be no questioning his 49 Champions League goals in 123 games and his International record of 62 goals in 116 games for Sweden speaks for itself. His is a career of not only being a great goal scorer, but also a scorer of great goals.
The Ibrahimović in his mid-thirties that Manchester United fans will get to see is not the Ibrahimović of even three years ago, but if the move does not work out, then the retort will be “yes, but this is the 35 year old Zlatan at the end of his career” and quite frankly, that would be a shame. Almost a ‘get out of jail card’ because the opportunity to prove that he was better than his one season in La Liga is gone. I do feel his complete lack of pace could be an issue in the Premier League, but equally, I’m sure there will be more than a few memorable moments and flashes of genius. Do I think he will tear up the Premier League? Probably not. Do I think he’ll be worth the fuss? I’m sure he’ll provide plenty of entertainment.