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Experts divided over Zlatan's successes

AFP/The Local · 29 May 2012, 11:37

Published: 29 May 2012 11:37 GMT+02:00

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In some quarters Ibrahimovic's obvious footballing gifts are almost worshipped but those who view him mostly from afar often accuse him of failing to step up when the going is at its toughest.

The pro-brigade insist that a player who has won titles with Ajax, Juventus (although both were later revoked), Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan and commanded huge transfer fees to pass from one to another is one of the main reasons his teams have enjoyed such success.

But others claim that he only displays his talent against minnows and say his failure to win the Champions League or shine on the international stage proves he has his limits.

The statistics hardly clear up the debate.

Even Ronaldo, perhaps the greatest striker of them all, never won the Champions League and he played for Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter Milan, as well as PSV Eindhoven, during a glittering career.

However, he won the World Cup twice, finishing top scorer in one of those, and was World Player of the Year three times.

Sweden are not Brazil though and there can be no doubt Ronaldo benefitted from playing with far better players than Ibrahimovic does when he turns out for his country.

Other great players such as Ryan Giggs and George Best never even played at an international tournament and Andriy Shevchenko has only played at one, the 2006 World Cup.

But Ibrahimovic has had plenty of opportunities to shine having played in two World Cups and two European Championships while he has played Champions League football in 10 straight seasons.

He has had positive moments in both, notably scoring a late equaliser against Italy at the 2004 Euros and a brace for Barcelona in a 2-2 draw away to Arsenal in the Champions League.

But too often he has failed to find his best form when the glare of the watching world was upon him.

While his league scoring record is just over one in two, in Europe he scores less than one in three games.

He has only once been in a team that reached the Champions League semi-finals and his best performance with Sweden is the Euro quarter-finals in 2004.

His critics claim that when his teams need him to produce a spark on the

big stage, he comes up short.

Yet, as Sir Alex Ferguson always says, the hardest thing to win is the league and Ibrahimovic has consistently performed in teams fighting for the title.

He has won seven league titles in three different countries with four different teams and was also part of the Juve side stripped of two more Serie A crowns.

He has finished top scorer in Italy in two of the last four seasons, once each with Inter and Milan.

He's twice been named in the UEFA team of the year, been Serie A player of the year three times and Swedish player of the year six times.

Story continues below…

For such a big man, he stands at 1.95m, he has quick feet with excellent touch and control.

He is as strong as an ox and an expert at holding up the ball and fending

off defenders.

His practice of taekwondo has given him great flexibility and balance and he can strike the ball with searing power.

He has even added an improved workrate during his two years at Milan and seems less temperamental than during his younger years.

And his role in the current Swedish set-up as more of a playmaker than pure finisher means he gets more involved, sees more of the ball and can make better use of his talent.

But to finally silence the doubters, he still needs a defining moment at either international level or in the Champions League.

Barnaby Chesterman

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:48 May 29, 2012 by charubun pananon
If you are better footballer than others in the team but your teammates are not keen enough at almost the level what you are then you are hardly to be the best at anybody expect. Messi and Ronaldo play with the team that most of his teammates are in the high skill level class, that's why both of them shine brightly than Zlatan.
14:52 May 29, 2012 by planet.sweden
Who is "Even Ronaldo"?

I've heard of Ronaldo Luiz Nazário de Lima, a Brazilian footballer, now retired, and Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese footballer currently playing for Real Madrid, but never this Even Ronaldo guy.
15:26 May 29, 2012 by Jes
Oh dear !

the word "Even" is not Ronald`s name . Here it is used as intensifier . I
07:46 May 30, 2012 by Russel Dalrimple
He's a talented footballer, no doubts there.

He's also a massive dickhead, and a touch 'delicate'... hence, no respect in countries outside of Italy and his native Sweden.
08:24 May 30, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
"Sweden are not Brazil though" - just what exactly are you suggesting here? Lol!!

As for the rest of the paragraph, seems to me that the Sweden team plays better WITHOUT 'Zlatan': they certainly did in the last Euro qualifier match when they beat Holland.

Nevertheless, its always tricky defending against a big guy who is the team's 'front man'
10:38 May 30, 2012 by CJ from Sunshine Desserts
A lot of his goals this season with AC Milan were actually penalties.....although to his credit he did get a hat-trick.....every team has its diva....for better or worse..still I think this will be his last tournament ..Brazil 2014 seems a long way to go...Sweden as usual got an easy qualifying group.....!! Expect him to get a few hard tackles from Ukraine & England..
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