ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC; Can He REALLY Be as Good as He Thinks He Is?

Daily Mail (London), February 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC; Can He REALLY Be as Good as He Thinks He Is?


Byline: by IAN LADYMAN

RECENTLY voted player of the year by his peers in Serie A and declared a better performer than Cristiano Ronaldo by his manager Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan centre forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has much to live up to when Manchester United lay their European crown on the line at the San Siro tomorrow night.

On this occasion, the Swede with the Eastern European name will perhaps be required to play up to his star billing if Mourinho is to extend his remarkable winning record against Sir Alex Ferguson over the course of this intriguing Champions League tie.

A quick trawl through YouTube will soon present you with some stark examples of Ibrahimovic's remarkable gifts. Marvel, for example, at his aerial back-heel goal for Sweden against Italy in Euro 2004.

Look, too, at the impudent manner in which he used to fool defenders during his early, carefree days at Ajax in the early part of the decade.

Ibrahimovic was happy to talk up his big reputation when he spoke with Sportsmail last week. According to the 27-year-old, Mourinho is superior to Ferguson as a coach and he will prove himself better than United's attacking triumvirate of Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov over the next two weeks.

Confidence has certainly never been a problem to a player once dubbed 'half-ballerina, half-gangster' by the Italian media.

Nevertheless, cut through the bluster and the internet highlight reels and you find a striker who does not always strike on the big occasions; one who has been known to fail when club or country have really needed him.

'I could spend a long time arguing against this theory but I know that some people will not listen to my reasoning,' responded Ibrahimovic when the idea was put to him last week. 'All I will say is that there is much more to come from me.

'In this round, I really do want to show everybody that I am one of the best strikers in Europe and one of my burning ambitions is to win the

Champions League and win the Golden Boot for being Europe's top scorer at the same time. Maybe that would settle the argument.' Ronaldo has had to listen to similar accusations, of course, as did United icon Eric Cantona as he tried -- and failed -- to lead the club to Champions League heights in the Nineties.

But in Ibrahimovic's case, some basic statistics appear to lend the theory credence.

Prior to the 2006 World Cup, England coach Sven Goran Eriksson predicted that the tournament would identify his countryman as the best player in the world. Ibrahimovic didn't score a single goal.

It was a similar story two years before when a missed penalty in a shoot-out contributed to Sweden's exit against Holland and although the maturing forward did score twice in last summer's Euro 2008 tournament to end a two-year international drought, his Champions League record is moderate at best.

In three seasons and 20 European appearances for the Italian champions, Ibrahimovic has scored just six times. Compared to his record of 46 goals in 76 Italian league appearances for his club, it is disappointing.

'In the short term, I would love to score against Edwin van der Sar and end this incredible record that he has got,' said Ibrahimovic. …

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