Column: Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to put on a show
I've been asking myself this one question lately: why am I so captivated by Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
It may very well have been a four-goal performance by Zlatan Ibrahimovic against England on Steven Gerrard's 100th cap celebration. Granted, Joe Hart's clearance was quite poor, but the piece of mind to immediately thrust his body into the air and bicycle kicked the ball into the back of the net was sublime.
Zlatan is great - and he knows he's great, and he makes the world know it. While he may not have the accolades or Balon d'Or to prove he's up with the likes of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, he completely understands he's up there with the best.
He's cocky, he's arrogant and he's down right entertaining. Ibra has even sent Ronaldo a "Dare to Zlatan" t-shirt for his birthday, to which Ronaldo so kindly responded, "Thank you for the present. It will look better on me than you though."
Talk about showmanship. While some footballers and supporters may call him an arrogant something-or-other, it's just Ibra being Ibra. The Swedish international can get away with the snarky remarks and back-heels. Just as Ronaldo, and we're talking Brazilian Ronaldo, carved up defenses and beat nearly every goalkeeper he came up against, Ibrahimovic appears to be doing the same.
Quite simply, he's making Ligue 1 look like child's play. Even his agent, Mino Raiola, pleaded for Ibra to slow down in the magnificent goal production but, unfortunately for him, it would appear Paris St. Germain's superhero will not stop at any cost.
Equally important, the fire in Ibrahimovic's eyes is electric. It appears the Swede can tally at will, in whichever league he decides to take his talents. Ibrahimovic excelled with AC Milan, handled defenses with ease during his Ajax years and even appeared on Barcelona - quite a feat in and of itself.
But Ibrahimovic does not stop with the comments he makes about his eccentric soccerstyle. Unlike many soccer players around the world who seem to settle for a goal or two during the run of play, Ibrahimovic makes something out of nothing. The bicycle kick or, one of the most memorable goals, his back-heeled flick in Ligue 1 in which he knew exactly what he was doing.
The goals Ibrahimovic scores would seem outlandish to the average soccer supporter, but to a fanatic he's pure genius. A maestro, a striker's-striker and ultimately a ticket-seller. People travel far and wide to see what he will do next and luckily for them, I'd imagine even Ibra isn't quite sure what he'll do next - but it sure will be entertaining.
Yet that is why so many sank their heads in dismay as Cristiano Ronaldo single-handedly punched Portugal a ticket to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Back and forth the two nations went. As Portugal went ahead early in the second half, Ibrahimovic's eyes lit up. He tied the game off of a trademark header and just stared at Portugal's defense, with a stone cold glare in his eyes. Unfortunately, however, the Swede will be watching the festivities from afar, rather than on the pitch in Rio.
They say a good striker is lethal with the ball anywhere within the penalty area. As for Ibrahimovic, this man is a presence who is lethal when the ball isn't even on his foot. The Swede attracts defenders attention left and right and while Sweden may not have been the most formidable powerhouse in world soccer over recent years, they have Zlatan.
And so he continues with the commercials. Depicted as swimming in below freezing temperatures as he prepares himself for the next challenge ahead. Although Ibrahimovic could not carry his country to Brazil this summer, I'd expect the man to do brilliant things over the course of this season.
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