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Qasa Alom On February - 14 - 2011

Nowhere To Hide For Ibra As History Beckons…

As AC Milan host Tottenham Hotspurs in the round of 16 first leg, Qasá Alom highlights why all eyes will be on Ibra…

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has an enviable domestic record that’s seen him win league titles seven years consecutively*, for four different teams and in the process scoring 112 goals in 211 appearances. This season, the big Swede looks likely to continue his impressive domestic run as he’s forged an impressive partnership with Robinho to put Milan 3 points clear at the top with 17 goals in all competitions.

The most noticeable aspect of Zlatan’s performances this season though, has been his willingness to work hard for the team and lead the line with match winning performances when necessary; this has been evident most notably against Fiorentina, Inter Milan and of course in the case of that goal against Lecce. As his all round game play has matured from soloist to talisman, the inevitable comparisons to Marco Van Basten have arisen too from all corners such as Arrigo Sacchi, Adriano Galliani and the legendary Dutch striker himself.

“Every now and again I see myself again in Ibrahimovic above all in terms of physique. Ibrahimovic has formidable power, but also good technique”

Marco Van Basten. December 2010.

Yet despite all the domestic accolades and plaudits, Zlatan still has a huge question mark next to his name as one of the world’s footballing elite he believes he is a part of, as a result of his underwhelming European exploits.

Much of this “choker” reputation comes from a history of going missing in knock-out ties for both Juventus and in particular Inter - who incidentally won the champions league after selling Ibrahimovic - whilst also only scoring a paltry 13 goals in 54 games during the same period of all his domestic success.

Further insult to injury has been Zlatan’s ineptitude at passing the Stoke test; also known as the “can he do it on a cold night at Old Trafford/Anfield/Emirates Stadium” barometer, which the English media in particular have used to even doubt Leo Messi. For Ibra the current concencus is a resounding no - largely as a result of crashing out of the Champions League to an English opponent 4 times in past 6 years without the merest hint of  his mercurial talent being displayed.

Yet despite all of this baggage, there are now signs that Zlatan is waking from his European slumber. First of all, although many might label his foray into Spanish football last season as a failure, Ibrahimovic managed  to score 3 vital goals for Barcelona in their run to the semi-finals. The first leg equaliser against Stuttgart and brace against Arsenal both laid the foundations for the Catalan giants to stroll to victory in the return fixtures, and most crucially all three of these goals came away from home.

This season too has seen a marked improvement in Ibra’s contribution for European glory, as he has scored 4 of Milan’s 7 champions league goals including Man-of-the Match performances in both ties against Auxerre and the crucial equaliser against Ajax that ultimately meant progression into the knock-out stages.

Thus with Tottenham’s much lauded attacking threat somewhat blunted through the absences of ‘welsh cyclone’ Gareth Bale,  midfield maestro Luka Modric and injury concerns to match winner Rafael Van der Vaart as well as the loss of club captain Ledley King, fortune is certainly favouring the rossoneri going into the tie. The stage then is perfectly set for Ibrahimovic to finally announce himself  as a world class player and truly earn those comparisons to Marco Van Basten.

* 04-05/05-06 for Juventus have since been revoked.

Qasa Alom

Broadcast Journalist. Writer for Serieaweekly, subtitled online or anyone else daft enough to want me. These are my thoughts (even the clever ones)

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  • Ted

    Announce himself as a WC player?

    Um, he’s been a WC player for a long time, he’s a match winner.

    However, I’m not that confident against Spurs. There strengths are, are weaknesses.We tend to struggle against fast paced teams with quality wingers.

    I see us going out of Europe, again in the round of 16.

    A bonus to that, is being able to focus on winning the Serie A title.

  • Ted

    Ibra isn’t Van Basten….

  • Ted

    and BOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!

    I’m right.

    Milan were outplayed.

    Don’t even blame Ibra. Not his fault he gets no service. Nothing but long balls..

    what a shame..

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