Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be appreciated while he’s still here

Zlatanera – from the French ‘zlataner’: to dominate on and off the field

Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A player so good he is part of Swedish and French lexicographic history.

Ibrahimovic’s absence from the 2014 World Cup is world football’s greatest loss. You can choose to either love him or hate him, but you have to appreciate him. There is no choice in the matter. As the Paris Saint-Germain striker edges ever closer to the end of his phenomenal career he continues to perform the unworldly on a scarily regular occurrence that he simply defies all that have come before him. Those who don’t follow the correct Twitter accounts may not recognise this.

Not many players will score a back-heeled goal in their careers. How many can you think of? Thierry Henry. Gianfranco Zola. Cristiano Ronaldo. These are just three of the great names. But how many can you think of if you type ‘(insert name) back-heeled goal’ in YouTube that will return with a plethora of examples? Just the one I imagine.

He quite simply is a gift which keeps on giving. When Bastia hosted the dominant PSG last week they will still have been reliving the memories of last time they encountered their Swedish hitman. Just when they hoped they had seen the last of Zlatan’s heel, he did it again. It took the Swede just six minutes to net his 38th goal of the season after some swift one-touch football before nodding home Lucas Moura’s cross. He then turned provider as he flicked the ball with a bread-and-butter acrobatic jumping back-heel into the path of Ezequiel Lavezzi. Lavezzi then rounded off the scoring just two minutes from the end as he latched onto a flick-on by Ibra who demonstrated his physicality by out-muscling Bastia defender François Modesto.

Ibrahimovic has also taken to Twitter recently in an intriguing Q&A session with his followers in which he has revealed some of his wisdom as his admirers continue to learn how they can #DareToZlatan.

Firstly, the great man contacted the Twitter lords to request an extra few Twitter characters:

Then he revealed the first steps to greatness:

He admitted his fallibility:

He acknowledged his insanity:

He even enlightened us with his unique in-game thought process:

And finally admitted to being a mere mortal:

Of course all this self-promotion and adoration will be maligned by many who see the enigmatic man as merely an arrogant show pony; a player who walks a greater distance to the mirror in the dressing room than he runs on a football pitch. And for many others, the regularity of his tweets have now gone too far, with the Swede almost becoming a parody of the character that he, Nike and the media have helped create.

But he has developed this cult status through the sheer audacity of his footballing feats. He is one of a very select few who could currently be considered as a challenge to the individual dominance of Ronaldo and Messi. The Nike Football ‘Dare to Zlatan’ promotional campaign survives off the back of the man’s footballing ability, personality and popularity.

Personally, I for one thoroughly enjoyed his overkill on Twitter. When it comes to media interaction most footballers are lambasted for being clichéd and boring, Zlatan is actually entertaining. He’s interacting with his followers in a way that many other professional footballers don’t do and he shows his individual personality in a fashion that, for me, is rather endearing. He’s willing to play to a stereotype much in the way a popular comedian may do. If you don’t like it then simply don’t follow it.

Twitter prevalence aside, the man is like no footballer we’ve ever seen. As he plays through the twilight of his career he retains the ability to light up a football field in ways that nobody else can. Whether it’s a crafty cameo appearance or a game-ruining show of absurdity, we should all be appreciative of his talent. Because once it has gone, we may never see the likes of it again.


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