There’s much been said in the last week about the arrogance of the Premier League, and how the England team is a product of that money-fuelled obscenity we call a sporting competition.
And just as thousands of Icelandic fans, clapping in unison to celebrate a win over a shell-shocked England side brought crashing down that air of superiority, so will Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Peruse any Facebook comments section, any Twitter conversation and you’ll see the same sort thing “He’s too old, won’t be able to keep the pace in the Premier League” or “he won’t get it as easy as he did in France”, or even “He was crap at the Euros!!”
Zlatan’s opposite- of-a love-affair with England and the Premier League has been a long running saga, known as a bottler and a flop for years because he didn’t score against English teams in the Champions League despite dominating domestically wherever he chose to go.
And indeed, in true England centric fashion, it strangely took him scoring that overhead kick past an anonymous Joe Hart(it’s almost as if he’s prone to mistakes…) in a friendly to start to garner some respect. Not his numerous league titles or individual awards, no, he did it against England “…maybe he’s actually quite good?!” they said.
The French football argument has always been a valid one, but the performance of recent imports like Payet, Kante, Mahrez and even Martial have blown that out of the water. But even so, Zlatan is a different animal, he wasn’t in Ligue 1 because he ended up there because that’s how good he is or isn’t, he chose to go there, and now he’s chosen United and the Premier League.
Turning 35 in October, he’s undoubtedly slightly long in the tooth, but watch him on the pitch and you’ll see it’s truly just a number. He has never in his career relied on pace to beat men, he bullies them, he does it in Ligue 1 and he did it in the Champions League. He is a physical specimen not often seen on a football pitch.
That, combined with his obvious technique and skill, is going to be locked down by some of the hapless defences we saw in the Premier League last season? I’m not so sure. The way the Premier League has been going from a defensive standpoint, it is primed for a player like Zlatan to come in and dominate at will, providing he has the right back-up of course.
People won’t like it, and it will defy Premier League reason and shatter some of the misconceptions a lot of people have about transitioning from other leagues to here. Maybe, in some strange way it will help us wake up, and realise maybe we don’t have the best EVERYTHING. Maybe we can begin again and heal, from a position of realism, only then will we move forward both in the Premier League and as a footballing nation.
Thank you Zlatan, for saving English football.