Zlatan Ibrahimovic has announced his signing with Manchester United, much before the club officially did! Well, that’s Zlatan. Never mind his age being on the wrong side of thirties – 34 to be exact. Never mind the club and player will not be participating in Champions League football 2016-17 – incidentally the only trophy missing from the Swede’s glittering 28 major titles club career. Never mind the big audacious mouth, “I am Zlatan” is coming to the world’s most popular league.
As i write, the medical and the signing is due, but when Zlatan says he is coming, means he is! And it’s going to be the perfect transfer. Here are eight reasons why:
1. Free Transfer
A proven striker, all round qualities, box office draw and one whose name is enough to alert defences, coming at a free transfer is like a dream deal! His wages will be high but then his goals last season were high too – 51 of them coming off 50 games, including 31 in the Ligue 1. Although the French league isn’t as competitive, more so for Zlatan’s previous club, Paris St Germain – who were beyond all title rivals by March 2016; yet the attributes and numbers which Zlatan bring to the table are exceptional for a free deal.
2. One year deal
The deal is likely to be of one or at maximum for two years. This time frame is enough to extract whatever quality goals remain in him, enough to influence the league, sell Manchester United jerseys galore and get the fleet of red devils youngsters learn from him, whatever he allows to be learnt!! The Swedish term “Zlatanera”, meaning to dominate, was officially inserted in the Swedish dictionary four years ago. Since age is on his side to adjust and dominate the English Premier league, hence the short-term deal is an optimal point.
3. Experience, Quality, Set piece exponent and fitment to the team
For every audacious line which Zlatan blurts, he often has an audacious goal to complement too. The current Manchester United squad has a youthful look but struggled for goals last season, under Louis Van Gaal. Zlatan adds solid experience and quality to that line up. You can expect goals, assists, creativity and trickery from him. It’s often hyped the “challenges of English Premier League” will test a player. But when Ligue 1 players like Anthony Martial and Olivier Giroud (not to mention the Cantonas and Henrys) have smoothly gelled and delivered at England, there is no reason Zlatan cannot. Speed is not his forte, but now this Manchester United team will have one major target point to send the ball to. Also, Zlatan is a great exponent of set pieces. Manchester United lack quality free kick takers (Am assuming Jose will continue disliking Juan Mata and release him soon) and hence Zlatan puts this piece of puzzle in place.
5. Hunger for greatness
Zlatan loves the lights, the cameras and the hunger to be in the action. With chances of a Champions league medal fast depleting, he is desperate to prove his greatness in the world’s most popular league. Zlatan believes he belongs to the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo bracket. However the English press has seldom been impressed with him – till one night they saw four goals, including an overhead kick, he scored for Sweden vs England.
Zlatan wants to prove himself as the big deal to this press. He could have broken the bank with retirement deals anywhere – China, India, United States, Japan or Qatar! Instead, he kept the hunger for greatness burning bright.
5. Deliver they must
On the other hand, manager Jose Mourinho, has landed on Old Trafford with some pressure to deliver. He wasn’t everyone’s first choice for his disruptive nature and at times unpleasing acts. Furthermore when he loaded the club with Zlatan, makes it seem like two big egos which the club may not have space for. After replacing Van Gaal with Jose Mourinho, buying players in the summer, United board and fans won’t be happy seeing their team continue to struggle.
If United are bit far from the title race (say distant third or lower) by December 2016, the fans and English press (who are majorly London-based, where Jose is no more) will come down hard on both Zlatan and Jose. So deliver they both must. It’s now a question of their pride and equity.
6. Mourinho likes him
Zlatan had once said of Jose Mourinho being “a guy i could more or less die for”. This was during their successful collaboration at Inter Milan – where Mourinho was able to motivate and extract more out of Zlatan’s irrepressible hunger. Jose himself has said “A player who gave me as much as Ibra will always be in my heart…. He is very special, one of the best strikers in the world.”
When Paris St Germain lost to Mourinho’s Chelsea in the Champions League 2014-15 quarterfinals, i noticed on TV something which told a lot about their relationship. Post the game, while Mourinho was talking to a reporter, Zlatan came from behind, hugged him and whispered “All the best”. Jose turned back, sent a flying kiss and said “kisses to your family”. The interview continued.
To get the best out of Zlatan, you need to have a management team whom Zlatan trust and loves. This will be that.
7. Jersey sales
Zlatan is box office stuff. His coming should significantly soar Manchester United jersey sales across the globe. He will likely sell more jerseys this year, than all of their last season signings combined. Indeed Zlatan’s arrival is coming of a massive star unknown to Premier League in recent times. Consider this, last year’s biggest imports were a Barcelona reject Pedro, an aging Bastian Schweinsteiger and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp! For the sake of Zlatan, as part of my football Pilgrimage, I had flown all the way to Paris in April 2016 to watch Paris St Germain play Manchester City in the Champions league. Zlatan will bring revenues to Old Trafford for sure.
8. The heat is on Pep Guardiola
Without uttering a word, Jose Mourinho has fired the first salvo to Manchester City new manager Pep Guardiola. Guardiola has had long time rivalry with Jose and extremely hard times managing Zlatan as a player. Both, Zlatan and Jose, have had enough jibes at Pep over the past three years – in print, in passing and in press conferences. Pep Guardiola just cannot afford to lose to this pair. If he loses, his aura and credibility will be massively dented. I suspect Jose had this in mind before he went for this deal. This move will get Guardiola thinking.
The above makes for a fascinating English Premier League season. One where tempers, passion, thrill and drama are expected to be intense. More quality signings are expected too.
Zlatan left France saying ““I came like a king; I left like a legend,”. It’s probably an indicator of how intense things will unfold at Old Trafford. His signing sure is the ‘perfect optical signing’ and very likely will be a decent to good footballing signing too. I just can’t wait for the club season to begin.
To hell with Euros 2016!