Early Doors

Why Ibrahimovic is ace

Early Doors

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It is the transfer coup of the century. In flogging Zlatan
Ibrahimovic to Barcelona,
Internazionale have managed to offload a problem player, and have received one
of the greatest strikers in the world, Samuel Eto'o,
plus a massive suitcase full of cash and the use of Alex Hleb for a season.

Barcelona
have taken leave of their senses and will now combust faster than a firework at
a petrol station.

It is a popular view. Even the Observer's normally excellent Paul Hayward has dismissed Ibrahimovic
as: "A Serie A myth who should not be allowed anywhere near the new European champions."

Eto'o is the ruthless
assassin who snuffed out Manchester United's
Champions League challenge, and formed the focal point of the world's most devastating attack.

Ibrahimovic is the temperamental, inconsistent enigma who
has filled his boots in an inferior and discredited league, but struggled to
perform on the big stage.

That is the theory. And it is absolute rubbish.

Early Doors doesn't
know whether Ibrahimovic is worth £40 million plus Eto'o
and a bit of Hleb, but he is undoubtedly one of the world's
best players, and anyone who believes otherwise simply isn't looking hard enough.

So, let's explode
some myths.

1 - La Liga is a huge step up from Serie A

Barcelona
are better than Internazionale, no doubt. But are they playing in a superior
league? Absolutely not.

Serie A's finest teams might not be as good as they were, but the general standard is just as good as
in Spain,
where the quality fades horribly in the lower reaches.

The fact that Barcelona
scored 105 goals in 38 Liga games says as much about the defending of most
Spanish sides as it does about the Catalans'
attacking firepower.

Barca scored only three more league points than Inter last
season yet scored very nearly a goal a game more.

That suggests there is more than a little cannon fodder in
the lower reaches of the Liga table - cannon fodder like Sporting Gijon, who
shipped a massive 79 goals and were not even relegated.

For pity's sake,
the minute Diego Forlan and Fredi Kanoute touched down on Spanish soil, they transformed
into the second comings of Ferenc Puskas and Eusebio.

2 - Ibrahimovic is too temperamental to be any good

Ibrahimovic might be outspoken but he is not noted for
clashing with his team-mates or managers. Well, not since he and Mido fought
each other with scissors at Ajax,
anyway.

He was open about wanting to leave Inter for pastures
new, but in a measured, reasonable way. Compare Zlatan's
approach with the histrionics of Carlos Tevez, and make your own
conclusions over who is the volatile one.

Eto'o is no saint
either. He had a training-ground bust-up with coach Pep Guardiola in January
and is prone to the odd barbed quote.

Simply put, Ibrahimovic is the kind of player Brits hate. Just
because he looks languid, he is pigeon-holed as an inconsistent underachiever.
Never mind the fact that he plays like a more skilful Didier Drogba.

3 - He has never performed on the big stage

This one is hard to refute, but only if you replace 'big stage'
with 'when English people are
watching'.

True, Ibrahimovic hardly covered himself in glory against
Manchester United in last season's
Champions League, and his overall record in Europe
(18 goals in 66 games) is not great.

It is also the case that he performed poorly at Euro 2008,
although he was carrying an injury and at least managed to get there, which is
more than can be said for Wayne Rooney.

The problem is that few Brits watched him score twice on the
final day of the 2007/08 season to win the Scudetto for Inter; significant big-match heroics.

And just because nobody saw the moments of
magic that won him Serie A's 2008 Player
of the Year award, plus the 2008/09 goal of the season and Capocannoniere titles,
that doesn't make them any less
valid.

The bottom line is that Ibrahimovic is a more complete
player than Eto'o, he won't spend a month of this season at the African Cup of
Nations and, most crucially, he wants to be at Barcelona.

Like Francesco Totti, he is the kind of player that just
happens to rub British fans up the wrong way, but few can truly doubt he is a
special talent.

While the Catalans might not have got themselves a bargain, Ibrahimovic
has all the credentials to be a huge success at the Camp Nou,
and stick it to his critics.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Jermain Defoe's
lawyer Nick Freeman on how the Spurs striker celebrated
Peter Crouch's arrival by spending
five hours in police custody after being wrongfully arrested for driving while
disqualified: "I have advised
him he has got a strong case for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. How
would any respectable member of society feel about that treatment? They would
be upset. These things shouldn't
happen. Mr Defoe is feeling pretty aggrieved. But he was entirely professional,
many a lesser person would have responded in a slightly more emotional way,
particularly if they have work commitments. But he retained his dignity and
remained calm. My client had to endure not only the humiliation of arrest but
also being incarcerated like a common criminal."

FOREIGN VIEW: World Cup? Yes We Can (schedule permitting)!

US President Barack Obama has said he hopes
to attend the World Cup in South
Africa next year, if his schedule allows.

Obama held talks with FIFA chief Sepp Blatter
at the White House and urged him to give "strong consideration to the U.S. bid to
host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022," the White House said in a statement.

"President Obama thanked Mr Blatter for
inviting him to attend next year's
event and said he hoped his schedule would allow him to do so," the
statement said.

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