Zlatan Ibrahimovic never has been one to mince his words, even if this one particular quote has in-fact been abruptly denied by the player since it first emerged. He goes down as one of the most enigmatic, skilful and entertaining players of his era, but as he is yet to ply his trade in the Premier League, the 33-year-old striker seemingly hasn’t ticked off everything European football has to offer.
But it’s not like that will come as a great regret to the player himself. Zlatan – in his words – has ‘destroyed it’ in the Swedish Allsvenskan, the Dutch Eredivisie, Italy’s Serie A, the illustrious La Liga in Spain, as well as in the French Ligue 1 with PSG. Ibrahimovic therefore has a footballing CV to be proud of and the game is certainly better off because of his involvement.
However, after reportedly claiming that ‘Zlatan doesn’t do trials’ after his proposed move to Arsenal broke down early on in his career, English football ultimately seems to have missed out on playing host to the ever controversial striker.
In light of such a decision, were the Gunners always going to be just fine without the Swedish star on board, or does Zlatan Ibrahimovic remain ‘the one who got away’ for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal?
A remark like that could only really be made by two types of person: The first would be someone with grand ideas but also a strong degree of delusion, but the second would be a person who would not only fail to regret turning down a move to the Gunners in such dramatic style, but also someone who had it in them to go on to achieve even higher accolades in the world of modern football.
Zlatan definitely falls into the second category – the majority of goals that he has scored throughout his career would not have been put away by anyone else. Whether it be through the deadly power of his net-breaking shots, the supreme confidence that somehow comes every time he steps out on the pitch – or maybe just his reported black-belt in Taekwondo – the former Ajax, Juventus and Barca striker is simply unplayable on his day. Just ask any member of the English national side that saw their team pummelled 4-2 in what many have labelled ‘the Zlatan Ibrahimovic Show’ in late 2012.
Arsenal would have therefore loved to have seen Zlatan do his thing at Highbury or the Emirates – there simply isn’t any other way of putting it. Under the guidance of the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, the Swedish international would have likely become even more of a talent than he currently is today – especially with someone as experienced in player development as Arsene Wenger supervising his progress.
If things had gone well, Ibrahimovic could have played on in the absence of Arsenal’s now retired strikers, and subsequently won more trophies for the Gunners as a result.
Having said that though, the player himself would have likely never properly fitted in at a club such as Arsenal. The fact that Zlatan didn’t even think Arsene Wenger was worthy of an audition really tells you all you need to know. Yes – he would have wowed fans of the Premier League with his incredible talents and ability with the ball, but it simply remains too hard to imagine the enigmatic front-man ever wanting to play second fiddle to anyone else – no matter how talented his senior teammates may have been.
For that reason alone, the player himself can’t really go down as ‘one who got away’ for Arsenal. His apparent outlook at the time just wouldn’t have allowed for the partnership to work out for all parties involved. Zlatan seemingly had to make his own way in the footballing world – and as his career really is one to behold in the modern era – that is exactly what he’s done.
Perhaps though, in the ever changing realms of the current game, maybe – just maybe – one last move to the Premier League awaits Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the final curtain call of his illustrious footballing life.