In many ways Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the protypical modern soccer player. Tall, strong, athletic and, perhaps most importantly, has almost no loyalty to his club. One-man clubs are becoming more and more rare as the years go by, but Zlatan is almost truly an example of a soccer mercenary. He’s played for six teams since 2004 and is the world’s most expensive player in history in terms of collective transfer fees.
Juventus fans will remember him for winning two Serie A titles, albeit taken away as a result of Calciopoli scandal. After the trials Ibrahimovic famously said, “Referees did us favors? Oh come on! We fought hard on the pitch. We risked our legs and did it all without any help from referees. It’s all a load of crap”. However only a few weeks later he was sold to archrivals Inter Milan. Since then he has gone from strength to strength winning the Serie A title three times with Inter Milan and once with AC Milan along with a Liga title with Barcelona.
His supremacy in the Serie A was finally undone by none other than Juventus, reinvigorated by the hiring of club legend Antonio Conte, who went undefeated throughout the league and won it from AC Milan. Afterwards Ibrahimovic moved to newly cash-rich club Paris Saint-Germain in a double swoop for him and teammate Thiago Silva. This year he leads the Champion’s League in assists while also is on his way to finishing as Ligue 1 top scorer and winning the title as well.
Lately there has been talk of a reunion of Ibrahimovic and Juventus and it appears that the player is becoming open to the idea of a return to the club where he first made his name. On paper, it appears to be the perfect signing for Juventus; they have badly needed a true striker to put away the large number of chances their midfield creates and their inefficiency in front of goal is very well-known. In fact, the lack of a true striker has hindered Juventus from winning the league outright last year and was a major factor in their loss to Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League quarterfinal. Ibrahimovic would immediately bring some pedigree to the front line while also having the ability to put the chances given to him. He also has excellent hold-up play and would be able to bring and use the wingers around him.
However Juventus should be warned before bringing Ibra back to Turin. For one, Ibrahimovic has never been one to play as just an out-and-out striker and demands to have the ball and be the centerpiece of a team. While this has been effective in winning league titles, Ibrahimovic’s team seem to have a knack for not being able to get far in the Champion’s League and for good reason. Despite popular belief that he is just a big-game flop, what most teams realize when playing a team with Ibra on it, is that if they take him out of the game, his team will run out of ideas and lose simply because they have no Plan B if their usual chucking of the ball up field to Ibrahimovic fails.
Therefore to bring in Ibrahimovic would require a change of tactics, but also it would change the locker room spirit. Juventus’ locker room now consists of a tightly knit group of players who fight tooth and nail for Conte and never relent in their work ethic and refuse to be taken down by any hindrances, exemplified by their strong form while Conte served a six-month suspension from the bench. Ibrahimovic is more of me-first player and wont back down for any coach, and as a result this could lead him to being a misfit and an outcast among the players and coaches. The same happened in Barcelona when Ibrahimovic was eventually relegated to the bench and sold just a year after becoming Barcelona’s record transfer purchase.
While a player of Ibrahimovic’s pedigree and talent is something any team would want on theirs, his selfish attitude is something against what is being valued among the current Juventus set-up. Veterans in the mold of Pirlo should be the focus of Juventus and while Llorente is an excellent addition, if Juventus are really want to find a world-class striker they should look no further than Napoli hitman Edinson Cavani who has the work rate, pace and finishing ability that Juventus desperately needs and he comes much younger than Ibrahimovic, being 26 to Ibra’s 31. His price tag however is much higher, but Juventus should find some way to bring him into the team. As for Ibrahimovic, sometimes it’s better to let go of the past.
About the Author
Written by Mahmoud Ghellai