Six reasons why Zlatan Ibrahimovic would flop at Manchester United
Published 18/02/2016 | 14:01
Ibra has left the door open to the prospect of joining a Premier League club this summer - most probably United. But signing him would be a mistake
1. Old man Zlatan
He's 34! If he was a goalkeeper that wouldn't be a problem - in fact he'd be in his prime - but Ibra is a striker and, at that age, he's on his last legs.
The giant Swede was never one for doing much running anyway, and he's been able to get away with conserving his energy in France's Ligue 1 because, well, it's not very good. But in the Premier League he will be expected to put in a shift, track back, hustle. Is he really going to bust a gut at his age?
2. Temper tantrums
Ibrahimovic is used to getting his own way. Team-mates and opponents either fall in line... or feel the wrath of Zlatan. For example, back in 2010 the Swede and one of his club colleagues, American Oguchi Onyewu, quickly rubbed each other up the wrong way. Here, from his book I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he explains his method for resolving the conflict.
"I told Onyewu I did not trash talk, but he just kept on. He shushed me with his finger. Then he did it again. I saw red. I didn't say anything, not a word. That b****** was going to find out how I trash-talk!
"The next time he got the ball in training, I rushed towards him and jumped up with my feet and studs out in front — the worst type of tackle. But he saw me and leapt out of the way. As we both crashed to the ground, my first thought was: 'S**t! I've missed!' As I got up and walked away I felt a blow to my shoulder. Not a good idea, Oguchi Onyewu.
"I headbutted him, and we flew at each other. We wanted to tear each other limb from limb. It was brutal. We were rolling around, punching and kneeing each other. We were crazy and furious - it was like life and death."
Does the Premier League really need another (albeit far more talented) Joey Barton?
3. Flat-track bully
It's all very well bossing the likes of Bastia or Guingamp in Ligue 1, or turning it on for the cameras on European football's biggest stage against the likes of Chelsea or Barcelona... but what about a cold night in Stoke? The stats show that Ibra doesn't particularly enjoy playing against English opposition. The last time PSG were over here their Swedish talisman saw red for this foul on Oscar.
How will Zlatan react when the windchill factor is turning his nose red, his 34-year-old bones are stiffening up and Ryan Shawcross is using every trick in the book to provoke the famous Ibra temper. Our guess is not well.
4. Problems with authority
As mentioned before, Ibrahimovic likes to have things his own way. He has to be the boss, or at least feel like he is. And that can be a problem when it comes to the manager - he famously fell out with Pep Guardiola.
Former Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi once said of the striker: "Ibrahimovic is a fantastic player. But he is too much of an individualist in what is a team game." And it was this stand-offish individuality that led to one of the most famous fall-outs in football.
Following Barcelona's semi-final exit in the Champions League to Jose Mourinho's Internazionale in 2010, Ibrahimovic spoke in his autobiography of how he confronted Guardiola in the dressing room.
"He was staring at me and I lost it. I thought 'there is my enemy, scratching his bald head'. I yelled to him: 'You have no balls!' And probably worse things than that. I added: 'You are s****ing yourself because of Mourinho (then in charge at Inter). You can go to hell!' I was completely mad. I threw a box full of training gear across the room, it crashed to the floor and Pep said nothing, just put stuff back in the box. I'm not violent, but if I were Guardiola I would have been frightened."
So we can safely rule out Ibra joining Man City. Should Man Utd get Mourinho however...
He also has issues with referees. Mike Dean will have a field day.
5. Pace of the Prem
This has already been alluded to but the Premier League is a hard enough place for a 24 year-old, let alone someone 10 years older. Plenty of world-class talent from abroad has come to England's top flight and found the going too tough - think Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Bastian Schweinsteiger. It's all very well forging your reputation in Serie A, where all you have to do is blow on an opponent and get penalised, and then filling your boots in France, but end-to-end, high tempo won't suit Ibra's 'style'.
It could be argued that whoever buys the Swede would employ a system to suit his talents, indulging him and tailoring their tactics to his strengths. In the Premier League, however, this won't happen. Especially for a 34 year-old who will probably only sign a one-year contract.
6. Has to be No 1
Ibrahimovic could never understand the culture of deference which appeared to exist at Barca. In particular, he singled out of the unquestioning, anti-confrontational approach of senior players such as Xavi and Iniesta as being beyond his comprehension.
"I'd already got the impression that Barcelona was a little like being back at Ajax, it was like being back at school," he wrote in his book. "None of the lads acted like superstars, which was strange. The whole gang – they were like schoolboys. The best footballers in the world stood there with their heads bowed, and I didn't understand any of it. It was ridiculous."
In a Premier League era when the arrogance of footballer's is used as a stick to beat clubs with, Ibrahimovic comes with far too much baggage. And no team is going to want an ageing, highly-paid diva waltzing into the dressing room and taking over.