In an age where every generation seems to be blessed with its fair share of diversely gifted attacking talents, cut from a different cloth, and playing football with a grace that seems to constantly defy so many other lesser talented players; the most painful thing about hearing someone mention their top 5 best strikers of the last decade, is having to cringe at the constant omission of one name, Zlatan Ibrahimović. Zlatan is a true rebel in an age of conformists, a natural born striker capable of conjuring sheer magic with a football, or a piece of bubblegum.
The Zlatan can be said to have been largely unfortunate to have been doing such wonders at the end of the Raúl, Ronaldo, Alessandro Del Piero , Andriy Shevchenko, Samuel Eto’o, Michael Owen and Thierry Henry years; while his career also spanned into the dawn of another golden age, where the outrageous talents of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie, Sergio Agüero, David Villa, Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suárez have rightfully been the centre of all football related conversations in terms of premier level goalscorers and forwards. Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer, with 62 goals, Zlatan deserves special mention for remaining true to his unique skill-set, and ensuring that his arrogance rather fuelled his drive, instead of it hampering the realisation of his unlimited potential; a league champion, and lethal marksman, in every country he has played in, all while having rejected the chance to trial for Arsenal with the lure of developing under the wing of legendary youth development expert Arsene Wenger as a teenager, rebuffing the offer with a simple statement, “No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions’, prior to signing for another club steeped in a culture of nurturing young talent, AFC Ajax.
Zlatan Ibrahimović is a man in a class all by himself, one I would never dare to compare to any player in any era, for obvious reasons; not enough will ever be written about one of the greatest strikers ever to play the game of football, which is saying quite a bit, when we consider all that has been writ about him since his teenage years. The legacy of the man can never be truly quantified in words, because “gratefully-enigmatic” and “gracefully-eclectic” do not begin to describe him in his entirety, his impressive career numbers, in various elite level leagues, would quickly be surpassed in the near future, when we look at the career trajectory of the Messi’s, Cristiano’s and Neymar’s of this world; yet a goal getter that became the first man to score for six different clubs in Europe’s most elite competition, the UEFA Champions League, while also having been on a streak of nine straight league title wins in three different countries, with four different clubs of high esteem, has to go down as a genuine legend of the game in both the era’s he thrived in.
The brilliance of Zlatan Ibrahimović, is that he managed to work himself into the history books of football in a time when world-class forwards were playing the beautiful game the way it ought to be played, beautifully; his ability to shine amongst such fierce competition is highly laudable, considering how he could easily have been the premier striker in a different age. Since his arrival at Ajax Amsterdam in 2001, as a promising young player, from Malmö FF in his country of birth, Sweden, Ibracadabra has woven his magic in the elite leagues of Europe terrorising defenders and ‘keepers alike, all while displaying his skills against some of the most lethal goal scorers to ever play the game of football; the cream truly rises to the top, and Zlatan has remained at the top of his game throughout his career. The fact that he netted the bulk of his goals, 148 in all competitions for Juventus, A.C. & Inter Milan, in one of the toughest defensive leagues ever, the Italian Serie A, is a living testament to the deadliness of the man; any striker that can net over 100 goals in Italy deserves to be recognised as a truly great finisher, and a pretty good forward to boot.
Zlatan has mastered his craft, a player who actually got to fully develop his game and truly fall in love with his skills, in the midst of the media frenzy that has surrounded him since his formative years, something we’ve seen countless talented lads continually fail to do; The Zlatan will surely retire from playing professional football sooner rather than later, now that he is at the end of his peak as an elite level striker, and entering the twilight years of his glorious career, although 3 Golden Boot awards in his 4 Ligue 1 seasons shows that he is still an asset upfront for any team. The true legacy of Zlatan Ibrahimović should not be understated, nor should the demeanour of the man be misunderstood or used against him when speaking on his greatness, or his illustrious career.
The arrogance comes from an understanding of one’s true abilities, and a burning desire to make the utmost of those gifts; the outrageous God given abilities aside, the swagger of a Michael Jordan on the court, the nerves of a Roger Federer in a tournament final, the desire to constantly achieve greatness of a Tony Hawk regardless of the conditions & the confidence in self of a Muhammad Ali regardless of the circumstances or the opposition, all point to a man with the makeup of a true champion, and an all round legend of the sport we all love. There may never be another player as talented, confident and enigmatic as The Zlatan has been, and I am honestly happy with those odds; Bob’s your Grandmothers last born son, the world has been blessed enough to have had one Zlatan Ibrahimović, the foremost football inbetweener, living proof that a well balanced mixture of confidence & arrogance can always fuel undoubted ability, when channelled right.
Ball Don’t Lie (The Numbers)
|Malmö FF||September 1999 – July 2001||40||16||N/A||0.4|
|AFC Ajax||July 2001 – August 2004||108||47||15||0.4|
|Juventus F.C.||August 2004 – August 2006||92||26||6||0.3|
|Inter Milan||August 2006 – July 2009||117||66||30||0.6|
|FC Barcelona||July 2009 – June 2011||47||22||14||0.5|
|A.C. Milan||August 2010 – May 2011 (Loan) & June 2011 – July 2012||85||56||24||0.7|
|Paris Saint-Germain F.C.||July 2012 – July 2016||180||156||61||0.9|