No sooner had Adrian Mutu arrived in Corsica this summer than he developed a Napoleon complex. On signing for Ajaccio, he showed considerable bravado by accepting a wager that hadn’t even been made and took on someone much bigger, better and richer than himself.
That someone was his old mucker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had just performed a few kick-ups in front of the Eiffel Tower after completing his transfer from AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain.
“I know Zlatan well [from our time at Juventus].” Mutu told RMC. “He is a good friend. We will again be rivals, but from a distance. I take the challenge to see who scores more. Even if he is in a better team, it is not a problem for me. I’d bet on it.”
What was Mutu thinking? It’s a refrain that perhaps best describes his playing career. Mutu has scored just twice in Ligue 1 this season. Zlatan, on the other hand, has already got 12 and leads the goalscoring charts. It’s the most prolific start to a campaign in France since Stéphane Guivarc’h went haring out of the traps for Rennes in 1996-97.
It’s been said before that Ibrahimovic is a giant. Standing on his shoulders, however, is Toulouse’s young whippersnapper Wissam Ben Yedder. “You’re going to catch Ibra!” his teammate Moussa Sissoko shouted after he scored his first ever top flight brace in an impressive 3-0 win against Lyon on Sunday. Those goals were Ben Yedder’s eighth and ninth of the season. No Frenchman has scored more in France this term. Read the rest of this entry »
Current ‘it man’ Ibrahimovic continues to amaze after scoring an acrobatic overhead kick on Wednesday against his English opponents.
When England manager Roy Hodgson was asked by journalists this week if England had a talisman equal to Ibrahimovic, he mentioned Wayne Rooney.
“Rooney is a top-class player…We have to hope he can produce top performances and I believe in Wayne Rooney very strongly, as of course do Manchester United.”
But even Hodgson’s isn’t naive enough to believe that Rooney can single-handedly win them matches. Rooney’s international experience has been disappointing to say the very least. His first real debut came at the age of 18 during Euro 2004. He concluded the tournament with four impressive goals and was hailed by many as a soccer prodigy…the next Zidane, Ronaldo or Maradona.
Unfortunately, he failed to reproduce his stellar performance at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. While he did finally break his goalless streak in major international tournaments at Euro 2012, it just wasn’t enough from a player with such high expectations and abilities.
Although Hodgson is aware of both Rooney and his team’s shortcomings, it’s fair to say that England shouldn’t rely on one player (which Hodgson understands and does point out). Rooney is key to a successful team, but he’s only part of the puzzle and problem.
So while England continue to have faith in Rooney, and they rightly do, it’s important to find the real cause or causes of England’s failure on the international level. Read the rest of this entry »
FIFA says it will not add Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s astonishing overhead kick goal against England as a late entry to be selected as the best goal in 2012.
Ibrahimovic scored his fourth goal in Sweden’s 4-2 victory Wednesday several hours after voting opened for 10 approved Puskas Award candidates.
FIFA says “given that a number of votes have already been cast for this year’s award, the select committee for the Puskas Award may not, at this stage, include an additional nominee.”
But you know what? This is how should be. Zlatan’s goals are unique; they don’t fit in with the official footballing pantheon. They’re workarounds. He’s like a horse crossed with a ninja…why the hell should Zlatan’s greatness need FIFA’s official stamp of approval? Let Zlatan’s effort standalone. An asterisk to the official record.
Moreover, it lessens the chance Hassli’s goal will win the award.
In needless opprobrium news, Kurt Larson dissents:
On Zlatan … A fantastic, well-taken goal. But it comes off a series of mistakes. To be honest, that lessens it for me.
UHHHHH. Well, let’s have a look. Yes, Joe Hart shouldn’t have been that far out of position, and his headed clearance was inadequate to say the least. But think. Just think. There was no other way for Zlatan to score from that situation. There were already three defenders back to cover for Hart. Two were within about two yards of the posts. Zlatan could have trapped and tried to pass to the lone Swedish forward, but he would have been well covered. Instead, with his back to goal, he back-flipped karate chopped it with the perfect arc to make it unstoppable.
As always with these things, the news isn’t just “the news.” The headlines in England are currently awash in praise for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late wonder strike last night, art of a four-goal masterclass that could have been titled Being:Zlatan. The fact he was in a Sweden shirt in Sweden giving Sweden a triumphant 4-2 victory over England was almost an accident of time and space.
A cynic might wonder if the praise from the English papers might be an attempt to reduce the result to some sort of incredible freak aberration, a World Class player randomly hitting peak form the way a radio station plays four of your favourite songs in a row on the way to work. Steven Gerrard’s acknowledgement that the strike was “the best he’s ever seen” seemed to signal there was nothing that could have been done to stop him. And even so, he might be right.
Yet there’s also an element of release after a years’ long crescendo in England to the importance and power of ‘systems.’ After the Euros were dominated by talk of “two banks of four,” “false nines,” “tiki-taka,” and “pragmatic football,” it seemed impossible to speak of the sport without a hat-tip to set-ups, managerial ethos, philosophy, belief in what football should be, blar be blar blar. Whatever happened to single, unrepeatable moments of individual creativity, a la Maradona in ’86, also against England?
Zlatan doesn’t do ‘systems,’ at least in the popular imagination. Upon leaving the flagship of all system sides in Barcelona, Ibrahimovic famously said, Lieutenant Daniels-like, “This is bullshit.” He may have well said the same of Joe Hart and the entire England defense yesterday.
And right now they and the rest of the country love him for it, because it fulfilled the empty promise of so many international friendlies and football in general—it was fun, for fun’s sake. So take some time off today to really enjoy Ibra’s goal, and other’s like it. Read the rest of this entry »