Saturday 24 March 2018

Ibrahimovic right – World Cup not worth watching without him

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Jim White

At least it gives us four weeks of next summer back. As Sweden failed to qualify for Brazil 2014, their captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic suggested – his tongue seemingly nowhere near his cheek – that without him the World Cup will not be worth watching.

Apparently the purpose of the World Cup lies solely in following the progress of a giant ego in a top knot. And now Zlatan is not there, frankly what is the point?

Not that anyone could fault his effort to get to Brazil. Spurred on by a giant projection in downtown Stockholm of the kind of image he most admires (it was of him, depicted as Sweden's messiah) he scored two goals in the play-off against Portugal on Tuesday.

His misfortune was to be confronted by a team containing an even more elevated talent than him: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Not so much for him, deprived of the opportunity finally to inscribe his name at the top of the game. But for us, deprived of the chance to watch him do so. And in a sense, he is right: it won't be the same.

Rarely are footballers' autobiographies exercises in self-deprecation; Ibrahimovic's, however, took solipsism to another level. It was titled 'I Am Zlatan'.

But this was the thing about his volume: it backed up the title. It was a terrific read, a romp of a piece, its prose zinging with hilarious self-glorification. In a sense, his football is the same.

If he failed to deliver, then Ibrahimovic would be simply ridiculous, the Alan Partridge of sport. But time and again – whether it be an utterly improbable chip over Joe Hart or a brace in a vital play-off – he does it.

Which is why, in a sense, he is right. The World Cup will not be the same without him.

Perhaps we should comfort ourselves in his absence by doing what he will be doing next June: going on holiday. Not that many of us have access to the kind of away days Zlatan enjoys.

In 2012, he bought a two-and-a-half square-mile private island off the Swedish coast.

This he filled with antelopes and other African exotica. And every summer he invites his mates to go over and hunt with him. Of this we can be sure about Zlatan Ibrahimovic: if all else fails, he would make a terrific Bond villain. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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