Whilst last years summer transfer window in Spain was largely dominated by Real Madrid’s massive expenditure, Barcelona also paid one of the highest transfer fees in football history when they signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Inter Milan. The Swedish forward cost the Catalan club £40 million, plus one of the world’s top strikers in Samuel Eto’o. It seemed like a bewildering deal at the time and now that Ibrahimovic has gone on loan to AC Milan with a view to making the move permanent, the transfer can be regarded as one that did not greatly benefit Barcelona.
Ever since Zlatan Ibrahimovic became a household name across Europe, he has divided opinion amongst football fans. Ibrahimovic is an incredibly talented player with supreme technique and a good goal-scoring record, but some argue that he does not perform in the big games when it matters. After playing for European giants Ajax and Juventus, Inter Milan bought Ibrahimovic in the wake of the Italian match fixing scandal which saw Juventus relegated into Serie B. In his career at Inter, Ibrahimovic scored an impressive 66 goals in a total of 116 appearances, and showed some of the superb talent he has at his disposal. He never really convinced however in the Champions League as Inter experienced a series of disappointing exits.
Despite being the holders of the 2008/09 Champions League, Barcelona decided that they needed a change and obviously saw enough in Ibrahimovic that convinced them that he would improve the team, and so followed the immense transfer fee and exchange of Eto’o. Quite frankly it was an utterly bemusing signing. Ibrahimovic is undeniably a very good striker, but it seemed as if Barcelona were buying just for the sake of it.
The club experienced great success with Samuel Eto’o as their main striker, winning two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles with the Cameroonian spearheading the attack. Eto’o might not have offered as much as Ibrahimovic regarding link up play and the ability to be used as a target man, but his record of 129 goals in 200 games for Barcelona speaks for itself. He suited Barcelona’s game much more than Ibrahimovic did, with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi creating an abundance of chances, all that is needed is a striker to put them away, and there are not many better players in the world at this than Samuel Eto’o. Ibrahimovic is entirely different, whilst he scores goals he acts as more of a target man, useful for a long ball or crosses that Barcelona hardly ever use.
Ibrahimovic was by no means a flop at Barcelona last season, he scored a decent amount of goals but the club did not replicate the success they had had the season before with Eto’o as the leading striker. Inter Milan meanwhile, went on to win the treble. When Barcelona signed David Villa earlier this summer it became clear that Ibrahimovic’s playing time would be limited as a result, and thus a move was mooted throughout the transfer window. When he finally moved on loan to AC Milan, it was not therefore particularly surprising, and it brought to a close what was a somewhat lukewarm spell at Barcelona. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a fantastic striker, but the exorbitant fee that was paid in addition to a top forward in the form of Samuel Eto’o, meant Inter got by far the best end of the deal, and the Swede will be largely disappointed with his time in Catalonia.