August 30, 2010
Quite rare I delve into the world of Serie A or La Liga on this blog, but the news of one major transfer between the two leagues this week has me relishing the prospect of watching AC Milan this season. Of course, the player in question is none other than the enigmatic figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If you haven’t seen the news, he’s been allowed to leave on a season-long loan, with a transfer fee arranged for next summer of €24m. And just because I like videos, here’s one for you to enjoy.
He is the ultimate opinion divider, is “Ibra”. On his day the big Swede is utterly unplayable, scoring goals from anywhere, and at 6 foot 5 with hugely deceptive pace, he is a handful for any defender in the world. Couple that with his undoubted technical ability, it is easy to see why some rate him as the best centre forward in the game.
Unfortunately, he also has his days where I swear he’s actually a hybrid of Delroy Facey and Vinny Arkins in disguise. A very questionable temperament and a complete lack of work ethic don’t do him any favours, and it is these character flaws which have let him down in Spain. As a result, his €69m transfer from Inter Milan to Barcelona hasn’t quite worked out, despite scoring 21 goals for the Spanish champions last season.
There are a few facets of this story though that really interest me. The first is just how Barcelona can allow themselves to simply brush off a loss of €45m without a care in the world. This is the club who recently reported a post-tax yearly loss of €77.1m simply allowing the player to leave the club for next to nothing, only recouping part of the frankly ridiculous fee for him next summer. That is the same player who officially commanded the second largest transfer fee ever paid only 12 months ago. Granted, they will be relieving their wage bill of a reported £200,000 a week, but the signing of David Villa and Javier Mascherano hardly represents a club attempting to downsize. Indeed, the rumours are still there that they want to add Manchester City’s Robinho to their squad (who ironically is also interesting AC Milan) which is a serious increase in their wage bill.
The second is the fact that Ibrahimovic won nearly everything there is to win in Italy with Milan’s city rivals, yet like many ex Inter players before him, he now finds himself in the red and black of the Roseneri. I fully expect Ibrahimovic to deal with the abuse that comes his way, but again it is another test of his temperament, one which many others will expect him to fail.
I have read many opinions already on this matter, calling Ibrahimovic a “bigger flop than Shevchenko” but is that really accurate? I’d argue it’s wide of the mark, certainly. As a centre forward, your first job is to put the ball in the net. As already stated, he did that 21 times last season. Ah, you might say, surely these 21 goals came against the smaller clubs? Well, no. He scored both goals against Arsenal at the Emirates in the Champions League Quarter Final, and the winner against Real Madrid in the ‘Classico’ at the Camp Nou. Put that next to ‘Sheva’s’ nine goals in two seasons, and it’s clear to see who was a bigger disaster.
Thirdly, you have to wonder if Milan’s new coach Massimiliano Allegri knows exactly what he’s getting, and if he can motivate Ibrahimovic the way that Mancini and Jose Mourinho managed at Inter. Allegri was a strange appointment by Milan, another young manager following on from Leonardo and as a result, no real experience at a top club. Mancini was also a young manager, but he was also a top quality player, which I suspect will have helped him to manage Ibrahimovic. Of course, after Mancini came Mourinho, who I think could turn Emile Heskey into a winner, let alone ‘Ibra’.
Just how Allegri builds his side will also be paramount. Whilst Milan have an ageing squad, they also have a few egos, not least Ronaldhino. With the rumours of Robinho also arriving at Milan, and the certainty of Pato starting every week (note the transfer window is still open as I type this!) you have to wonder exactly what Allegri has in mind. If he makes Ibrahimovic his ‘main man’, I’d expect to see him flourish once again, but if he’s playing second fiddle to ANYBODY, he may struggle.
So the time has come then to nail my colours to the mast and answer the title of this post. I am absolutely in the flawed genius camp, and I really hope he is a massive success back at the San Siro. As good as Barcelona are, I found his signing to be a strange one as they clearly don’t play with a target man. David Villa, who they have since purchased, was more of a Barcelona-type player, as was Luis Fabiano or even Robin Van Persie, but something about Ibrahimovic didn’t quite seem to be a natural fit.
Indeed, he might have been better off at Real Madrid alongside Higuain and Ronaldo (imagine that!) but I expect to see him scoring blinding goals once again this season. However, if he fails back in Italy, we may see him gradually slip away from Europe’s elite clubs and end up as just another mercenary at an Aston Villa or similar.
I’m sure I won’t be alone in hoping against hope that’s not the case, and that Ibrahimovic finishes his career at a club worthy of his brilliance. Or that he flops massively in Milan and arrives at Celtic Park for nothing next summer. One can hope…
October 29, 2009
It’s been a tough old season so far over at the San Siro, Their President is an international laughing stock, they’ve got a starring role in the David Beckham circus, their key players have been largely anonymous all season, their manager is clearly not up to the job, and more pressingly, they’re too damn old on the field.
Any team would struggle after losing a player of Kaka’s calibre, but it seems to have hit AC particularly badly. It must be even more galling for the fans when you consider that Huntelaar, signed from Real (of all places), has been fairly poor this season.
As ever, the problems are down to money, while Perez over at Real has been doing his best impression of Bill Gates and Roman Abramovich combined, Berlusconi has been comparatively tight. It’s thought that the sale of Kaka to Real has been more about balancing the books rather than investing in new players.
And the financial problems don’t just affect the team, it also effects what goes on at a management level. Great player that he was, It’s fairly obvious to anybody who isn’t Stevie Wonder that Leonardo is struggling at this level. So why was he appointed? Easy, he’s a cheaper option than getting somebody in. Milan have attempted to present his appointment as an attempt at injecting new impetus into the club, but that only works if the results and performances back him up, which they clearly haven’t.
But what about the players themselves? There have certainly been some rather poor displays emanating from the Home dressing room this season. We’ve already mentioned Huntelaar, but surely the biggest fingers are pointing at former Brazilian golden boy Ronaldinho. Ah Yes, twice FIFA World Player of the year, but now fighting for form amidst fluctuating weight, a team in the doldrums and insistent insinuation that he’d rather be out carousing the hostelries of Milan. On top of all this he’s no longer even recognised as the best player at AC, let alone in The World. Who should Leonardo play these days, the aging Seedorf or the enigmatic Ronaldinho? Difficult to say, but it shows just how far Ronaldinho has slumped if this is treated as a serious question.
And to top it all off and make me look like a fool, they go and win in Madrid, as somebody far wiser than I once said “It’s a funny old game”.