It should always be the goal of the Premier League, as a collective, to entice the world’s best players to this country and encourage more of those memorable performances.
With the obvious self promotion of a product comes the necessary backing to prove that what you’re selling is the very best. Last week Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave another performance of the highest quality, one that so many have come to associate with the Swede and a further reminder of the disappointment that he never played on these shores beyond a few Champions League ties.
It was a little embarrassing that Jamie Redknapp spoke so confidently that Zlatan Ibrahimovic had announced himself to the world following his four goal performance against England. The disappointment is that Redknapp really sums up a lot of the views about some of the quality on the continent – they’re not properly acknowledged in England until they put an English side to the sword.
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But it’s not really an accident that Ibrahimovic has played for the royalty of European football, winning league titles everywhere he’s been and for the most part being an integral component of a title-winning side. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Barcelona, the Catalans still saw so much worth in him that they parted with that astronomical package to land the striker from Inter.
The new look PSG wanted Zlatan as their man on the front lines and as the symbol of their new wealth, but his impact in France has been so much so that his presence is enough to sell out stadiums around the country. But perhaps most telling is the fall AC Milan are currently experiencing. Yes, Thiago Silva’s loss was also a huge setback, but Ibrahimovic not only led them to the league title but also saved them on almost every desperate occasion. It’s not a myth that he’s a player who can turn a loss into a point and a draw into a win – he is that good.
The Premier League has quality players and world class talents, but hasn’t it been too long since the league had a player like Ibrahimovic? Mario Balotelli is the obvious candidate, but he’s lacking in that extra something that makes Zlatan an otherworldly player. Whether it’s his attitude or even ability to match up to the Swede, it becomes irrelevant when you see the PSG striker pull off performances such as the one against England.
He has an arrogance and swagger about him but you can’t really justify any level of contempt towards the player. He’s backed up every ounce of seemingly unwarranted confidence, and only continues to serve up performances that put you back in your place.
He’s a major talking point and an even bigger draw. He’s the type of player who you pay to go and see because he’s a character both on and off the pitch who doesn’t come knocking too often. He’ll dropkick a team-mate in the head during training (or a variation and showcase of his martial arts background), he’ll say the most ludicrous but enjoyable things in press conferences, but he also always performs and lives up to the expectation. Where in England is there such a mix of both quality on the pitch and unmistakable swagger off it?
Ibrahimovic hasn’t gone off to France to retire, and there is fortune in the fact that he doesn’t hang around one club for too long. I don’t think there can be serious doubters to the idea that a 33-year old Zlatan would still do the business in England. His confidence, desire to be the best and propensity to entertain simply would not allow him to be a failure anywhere he goes.
It shouldn’t have really taken that overhead kick to turn the attention into overdrive, but that’s sport. Lionel Messi will always be a reference point for the most breathtaking moments we see in football that isn’t on the battleground of the Camp Nou, yet it’s also wrong and a little dispiriting if the Argentine is the only player we can look to as a deity among the mortals. Zlatan, Ronaldo, Iniesta and a small handful of others complete the set of the most outstanding footballers in Europe, serving up miles upon miles of column space after a single moment of audacity and inspiration.
But each of those players deserve it, and there’s a very good reason why they are acknowledged as the frontrunners of the sport. But the real shame is that England is without those individuals for now, with each of them taking up attacking stances elsewhere on the continent. A sobering reminder that English football doesn’t always have equals to the spectacular athletes of the rest of Europe.