“Zlatan needs no introduction. The statistics speak for themselves. Ibra is one of the best strikers in the world.
“He has won the most important league championships in the world of football, now he has the opportunity to play in the best league in the world and I know he will grasp this opportunity and will work hard to help the team win titles.
“I am certain that his talent will delight fans at Old Trafford next season and that his experience will be invaluable in helping to develop the younger players in the squad.”
These were the words of Jose Mourinho, shortly after it was announced that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be joining Manchester United on a one-year deal.
The incoming manager said all the right things, but the question is were they accurate?
I’m inclined to think not.
Before I explain why, here’s one important caveat: I think Zlatan has been an exceptionally good player at a number of the clubs he’s played with. The following is in no way intended to suggest that he’s never been any good.
First season in the Premier League at 34?
The fact is that Zlatan has never played Premier League football before. I’ll go even further: Zlatan has never played in a fast league before.
It’s a well-acknowledged fact that the Premier League is much faster than the Italian and Spanish leagues, with players getting far less time on the ball, less opportunity to set themselves and a decreased chance to think about their next move.
It’s frantic, its frenzied – that’s why we love it.
In my experience of Zlatan, this style of football doesn’t necessarily suit him. It’s not to say that it won’t, but more that he’s never proven himself capable of playing such a quick game.
And my point is this: 34 is very old to start trying to adapt to a new league and a new way of doing things. Critics of this stance will point to his successful adaptation to French football, but without wanting to discredit PSG, we must all be honest about the fact that the French league is a one-horse race…with only one possible title contender.
— Sam Marsden (@MadMarzy) July 2, 2016
Is he still one of the ‘best strikers in the world’
The trouble with Mourinho’s statement is that there’s no real way of measuring whether or not it’s true or not.
In my view, to be one of the ‘best strikers in the world’ you have to be scoring a lot of goals for one of the best teams in the world, or performing a superhuman effort playing for a less-established side. Zlatan hasn’t done either of those things for a number of years. It’s not to say that he won’t, or can’t. But just to confirm, the jury is still out on that front.
— Sun Sport (@SunSport) July 3, 2016
Commercial success evaporates all else
As far as Zlatan on the pitch is concerned, the proof will be in the pudding. But what is absolutely clear is that off the pitch, he’ll be a huge success. It’s suggested that sales of shirts with ‘Ibrahimovic’ on the back will boost United’s coffers by upwards of £50 million, so whether he delivers on the pitch, the Swede is a decent investment by United.