I’d like to say sorry.
I’m sorry I called you old.
I’m sorry I called your arrogant.
I’m sorry I said your impressive goal haul last season was in a “Mickey mouse” league.
Because now I understand. Now do I understand “What is Zlatan”.
I wasn’t alone. Back in July when Manchester United picked up the big Swedish striker on a free, I wasn’t the only voice suggesting that this relationship was a financial one. Zlatan would pick up one big final payday before hanging up his boots for the last time whilst Manchester United would make a small fortune in football shirt sales from their new Swedish Hero (and not just because at £3 a letter printing Ibrahimovic on a shirt is a potential gold mine).
It turns out that for years I have underestimated Ibrahimovic. Written him off as a fancy European version of Andy Carroll. A big ponytailed battering ram to terrify defences and score goals. I looked at the hero worship in Sweden and thought it was down not to his titanic ability, but instead a small pond and a big arrogant fish. I even thought that his inclusion in the Swedish dictionary as “Zlataner: To Zlatan” meaning to dominate was almost a joke. In the same way that, over here, we might add “To Arsenal: To create false hope” or “To Peter Crouch: To have a girlfriend well out of your league” for a wind-up on April 1st.
Now I realise I was wrong.
The big man has brought with him something special to the Premier League and to Old Trafford and has fast become one of my favourite players EVER to play in England.
I’ve quoted endless, and impressive stats about his time at Manchester United already: He’s scored 20 plus goals EVERY season for 10 seasons, in 2016 he scored more goals than everyone bar Lionel Messi in all competitions. I’m sure if I heard a fact about his ‘manhood’ then it would leave me feeling equally inadequate but weirdly that’s not what has won me over.
Sure, he’s got the stats to back up the arrogance (and he is arrogant) but that’s not what has got me all dewy eyed when I sit on my sofa watching Match of the Day on a Saturday night.
Because Zlatan has got IT.
I don’t know what IT is, but I do know that there are very few players who have IT, and the ones that do invariably go onto become cult club hero’s.
Cantona, Di Canio, Zola, Bergkamp, Ronaldo. All these players had a special something. They could deliver on the pitch when they needed to. They could change the game with a piece of magic but most of all what made them special was very difficult to put a finger on.
It’s a combination of the pure unadulterated belief that you are the best. The confidence to try something different on the pitch and in Zlatan’s case the dry-wit of a comic book superhero delivering killer one-liners in post-match press conferences. You can only get away with that if you are, as ‘Arry Redknapp would undoubtedly say: “A top top top top top top player”. Which he is.
So, Zlatan. I am sorry.
Right, I’m off for a cold shower.
Jim is the voice and some of the brain behind On The Left Side: The Alternative Football Show.
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