Following his recent and absolutely spectacular bicycle kick gol against England, a match in which he also scored the other three goals, the buzz around Zlatan Ibrahimovic has grown considerably. Not that people needed to be reminded of Zlatan’s footballing skills or his impressive aerial capabilities but, well, let’s say that when you score a goal like that everybody and their mothers are going to start talking about you. But that is not what I wanted to discuss, I wanted to talk about Ibrahimovic’s career, looking at his personal statistics and his own individual palmares which, as the Swede well knows, is still shy of the greatest trophy of all: the Champions League.
Ibra’s professional career begins in Sweden around 2001 when, after a few years in the youth sector, he is called up to the Malmo FF first team squad. In his first year as a steady member of the first team Zlatan manages to collect 11 appearances, score 3 goals and get noticed by one of the team with the best youth scouting systems of all: Ajax. The illustrious Dutch team decides that Ibrahimovic has the talent to join their squad and even spend a considerable sum, 7.5 million euro, to make sure the transfer happens. In Ajax, alongside players like Van der Vaart first and Wesley Sneijder later, Zlatan manages to make his name known throughout all Europe. In Holland Ibrahimovic becomes immediately an important member of the first raking up 42 appearances but scoring only 10 goals, this quickly changes in the following two years where he scored 24 and 20 a year in around 40 games or so.
Including this which is one of the most spectacular goals I can remember:
After three and a half years at Ajax, where he won two Eredivisie (National League) and 1 KNVB-Becker (National Cup), Ibrahimovic is the sold, for around 25 million euros, to Italian team Juventus where he has the chance to play alongside fantastic players like Del Piero, Thuram, Nedved and Buffon. In Juventus he stays two years playing overall a total of more or less 105 games and scoring 34 goals. In these two season with the “Old Lady” he managed to win back to back Serie A even though, as many remember, following the 2006 “Calciopoli” scandal in which Juventus was heavily involved they were both taken away and the bianconeri were demoted to Serie B.
At this time it was another Italian team, Internazionale (or Inter), who saw the opportunity to buy a top class player for relatively cheap, due to Juve’s legal troubles, and so in the summer 2006, for a price of around 24 million euros, Ibrahimovic joins the nerazzurri. During his three year spell at Inter Zlatan becomes the centre of the team, all attacking plays pass by him and his goals helps the nerazzurri win three consecutive Serie A’s and 3 Supercoppa, the equivalent of the Charity Shield.
During his three year spell in Milan, at Inter, Ibra collected around 133 caps and scored 69 goals including this wonderful heel-kick:
But simply winning the National league couldn’t be enough for a man with such a big ego, let’s remember he talks about himself in third person, and so in the summer of 2009 he decides that in order to win the Champions League he has to leave Inter for a more illustrious squad such as Barcelona. His desire was then turned into reality through what is remembered, by Inter fans such as myself at least, as the greatest transfer in the history of transfers: Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto’o and 50 million euros. In Barcellona Ibrahimovic had difficulties joining an already consolidated group of players and even though he did still manage to score 22 goals in his first season things never really clicked. The ultimate irony of it all is that his Barcelona squad was eliminated from Champions League by non other than Inter itself, who then proceeded to win the trophy after 45 years of abstinence.
Following some minor internal problems, both with the team and the coach, Ibrahimovic leaves Barcelona, who will obviously then win the Champions League, to return once again to Italy and Milano even though this time his colors are the red and black ones of Milan. With the “Diavoli” he returns to what he knows best: scoring and winning the National League. In his first season he scores 26 goals in 47, wins his 3rd Serie A, 5th if you included the 2 that he won at Juventus before the scandal, but is still getting no closer to finally putting his hands on the trophy with the big ears. In his second season at Milan upfront he is basically playing alone, this allows him to score the most goals he has ever scored in a single season, an astonishing 40, but even so he can’t bring his team to win the Serie A again falling in second place behind Juventus.
Then in the summer of 2012, having seen that Milan failed to retain its “Top Players”, such as Nesta or Seedorf, Ibrahimovic decides it is time to leave Italy for somewhere considerably richer: Paris Saint Germain. In a transfer in which PSG managed to buy Milan’s two best players, Ibra and Thiago Silva, the french team is said to have paid around 35 million euros for the Swede, on top of an incredibly salary which is rumored to be as high as 14 million a year. But Zlatan has already shown his french fans that the money is well spent, having scored an impressive 18 goals in his first 19 matches with PSG.
With Paris Saint Germain currently playing in Champions League, and Zlatan currently playing at such impressive levels, I guess his dream of winning it is still alive, even though the French team has yet to demonstrate that they have the capabilities of facing and winning against much more experienced teams like Man United or Barcellona. What we do know is that PSG definitely have the players, such as Lavezzi and Thiago Silva, to be competitive on every level coupled with a coach, Ancellotti, who has shown with Milan that he knows how to win this trophy. Unfortunatelywhat we don’t know is if the curse of the Champions League will ever leave poor Zlatan Ibrahimovic alone.