Football

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - the present that never came

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A giant; a goalscorer; a showman. Whether you love him or hate him, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's talent just cannot be disputed.

The Sweden international is the most expensive player in the history of the game - collectively, £134 million has been spent on the striker throughout his career - and has won league titles in Holland with Ajax, in Italy with Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan, in Spain with Barcelona and in France with Paris Saint-Germain.

Last season's Coupe de France victory for PSG saw him claim the 26th medal of his illustrious career, but it could well forever haunt the all-action striker that he has never laid claim to a Champions League winners medal, though you can bet the talismanic striker will do all he can to buck that unfortunate trend this season.

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Here in England we have watched Ibrahimovic dazzle from a distance. He fell victim to the Juventus 'Calciopoli' match-fixing scandal and was sold to rivals Inter Milan in the summer of 2006 where he continued to light up Italy by leading the club to the league title while winning the Golden Boot.

Following three successful seasons Barcelona came calling and the Swede teamed up with Pep Guardiola, whose Barca team will probably go down as one of the best the game has ever seen.

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Things were not all plain sailing in Spain, though, with the big Swede falling out with the Catalan coach over his positioning, being used on the right of a three-pronged attack which featured Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o.

He famously said to Guardiola: "You bought a Ferrari but drive it like a Fiat", and as a result was shown the exit door after only one drama-riddled season.  

This is the moment that Premier League clubs should have intervened. One of the world's finest footballers was for sale after seeing his pride wounded at a club that misused his talents. He was unhappy and disillusioned but still a world-class talent and a devastating striker.

Almost every player that has left Barcelona has not been wanted, but in Ibra's rare case, it was him not wanting Barca. Why then did Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal or a mega-rich Manchester City not come in for the maverick striker and make him feel loved again? He was a proven world-beater at the peak of his powers. 

Instead it was AC Milan who snapped up the Swede where he signed an initial one-year loan deal followed by a permanent transfer in 2011, which ended up being the most prolific season of his career, scoring 28 goals in 32 games for the Milan club.

PSG's Qatari owners came calling in 2012 following his continued success in Italy, with Ibrahimovic soon becoming the pin-up boy of French football and catapulting them to fame on the European stage.

He has been a huge success in France, helping PSG establish themselves as the country's best club and scoring his way to within just three goals of the club's record goalscorer - Pauleta with 109 goals - in just three seasons in Paris.

What a tragedy it is that he's never tested himself in England, though. A player that would be perfectly suited to the style of the Premier League, the 6ft 5in giant could have dominated England for years and led the line for any one of the league's heavyweights.

In the toughest league of them all, the Swede would have fit in perfectly with his physical yet technical approach. Instead, it's a case of what if.

Unfortunately for Premier League fans he previously confirmed that he would never play in England, saying: "It is impossible to get me to England" ahead of PSG's Champions League tie with Chelsea last season.

As he approaches his 34th birthday, if his own words weren't proof enough, if appears increasingly unlikely that Ibrahimovic will never grace the Premier League with his extraordinary ability. We can continue to marvel at his talent from afar, but most English fans should mourn his absence from the league that would have suited him best. 

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Premier League
Football
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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