Football FanCast columnist James Martin feels that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is half way there in silencing his doubters.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is like marmite, it seems you ever love or hate the big Swede.  For each fan who admires the fine technique and audacious nature of Ibra’s game there is another who sees him as lazy and over rated.  However after coming from the bench to bag the winning goal in last Sundays clash with Real Madrid the Barcelona striker has got a major monkey off his back, no longer can he be considered a big game flop, after all games don’t come much bigger then El Clasico.

When you look back over his career one has to wonder whether Zlatan’s reputation for going missing in the big games is actually deserved. When representing Sweden he scored a sensational goal against Italy at Euro 2004 and also hit the net four years latter against Spain.  Furthermore whilst playing for Inter he bagged goals against both AC Milan and Roma. However the finest moment of Ibra’s career came on the 18th of May 2008.  It was the last game of the season and Inter led second placed Roma by just two points and faced a trip to relegation threatened Parma.  With an hour gone things weren’t going well. Inter were labouring at 0-0, Roma were winning and the title was headed for the Olimpico.  Zlatan was on the bench due to a knee injury, in desperation he was thrown into the fray and promptly netted two goals to clinch the title for the Nerazzurri.  It was unquestionably a big performance in a big game.

However being a supposed big game flop accounts for only half the criticism which the big Swede comes in for as his Champions league record has proved a constant source of derision.  It’s much harder to defend Zlatan on this front as quite frankly his European performances have been poor.  16 goals in 62 appearances is not the mark of a world class striker.  Moreover when you consider that all of these goals were scored in the group stages you can’t help but agree that Ibra deserves his label as a Champions league flop and can’t be held in the same light as the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Thus Zlatan’s performance in El Clasico only goes half way to answering the detractors.  To be considered a true great in the modern game you have to perform in the Champions league and he just hasn’t done that yet.   The transfer to Barcelona provides the perfect platform for European glory and there can be no more excuses.   With the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta alongside its high time Ibrahimovic stepped up to the plate in Europe and silenced his critics once and for all.

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