This is the first of a new series of football related blogs I’m writing for and behalf of, and possibly in conjunction with, the nice people at footballxs.com. I will therefore be writing some of my most politically correct, swearword free, coffee table magazine, softspoken features ever. Not.
Petulant Tw@ts in Football is a not so subtle dig at overpaid, overrated, overfamous, overdone football “stars.” A common identifier for these people sees them using their elbow often, lashing out with their tongues, and in general, behaving like hyperactive baby thugs from Nicaragua who have just got their hands on the daily shot of caffeine. The PTF (abbreviation) need not be footballers; they only need to be disloyal, lazy, compulsive liars, mercenaries, dirty, maybe even fat… did I miss something?
And so, since he is the man of the moment, or rather, he thinks he is (it’s a common disease, like rabies), today we’ll talk about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Nobody can doubt his credentials on the pitch. Starting his career with Malmo in the Swedish league, he caught the eye of the once glorious Ajax Amsterdam, where his form literally exploded in two seasons between 2002 and 2004. His backheel goal that eliminated Italy from Euro 2004 and made Christian Vieri look very stupid propelled him to the international limelight, with Juventus beating the pack to his signature. Two seasons, two leagues and 26 goals later Ibra was sitting in Serie B with the rest of Juventus. While Nedved, Del Piero, Buffon and Camoranesi decided to stay on, Ibra and fellow nomad Vieira decided to commit the mortal sin of moving to Internazionale, where the Swede would again win titles on a club and personal level.
At the time, both under Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho, the concept of Inter’s football was as simple as effective: just clear it anywhere and Ibra will provide. And gosh, he did. But come 2009-2010 and here he is, after the proverbial “tummyache”, plying his trade for Barcelona after a sensational part exchange with the other hothead, Samuel Eto’o.
Legend has it his one year stay at Barca was a “disaster” where he “only” netted 21 goals. The fateful call by Silvio Berlusconi ended his nightmares.
The legendary Franco Scoglio, a former Genoa coach and star pundit who died of a heart failure during a live TV show, famously described him as a player who was used to being targeted by opposition defenders, but could also give them back the full dosage of their own medicine.
In this light, therefore, you will remember him stamping onto Ivan Cordoba during Juventus-Inter a few years ago, watching him go to the floor in agony as Ibra grinned and turned to look what his teammates where doing with the ball further down the field. Or the countless nasty tackles, not necessarily from behind; his elbow, pointy and menacing; his high foot a danger for every tibia on the pitch.
By the way, did anyone see this seemingly unprovoked kick at Rodney Strasser during a recent training session? Normal behaviour, or did none of his teammates see it?
If his behaviour on the pitch is questionable, he’s not a bit more charming once he changes to his tracksuit, or even PJ’s for that matter. He introduced himself to Milan fans in his first Champions League postgame interview (after scoring two goals against Auxerre) by insulting Arrigo Sacchi, whom history remembers as the tactical genius who built what is probably Milan’s strongest side ever. His expression, typical of the class dunce whose exam scores are perennially second from last (only because someone always misses exams due to illness), would be a perfect testimonial for Sheepshaggers, which, I hear, is a rather potent stout sold in department stores in lower Dusseldorf.
On holiday in Italy I read on that majestic pink newspaper they have that Ibra and his model wife, whose name I ignore, have hired the services of two image consultants to take care of their very dirty linen. Judging by the start he’s made in Italy, I bet they haven’t signed the contract yet. Especially when considering he is still managed by the biggest leech among the FIFA agents, the sneaky Mino Raiola, a former pizzaiolo who is now into another kind of dough.
Funny how I should start the series with a rant against a player who plays in my dearest AC Milan, which many others would find problematic. I hated Ibrahimovic, and the fact he wears the rossoneri kit has only downscaled this distaste by a notch or two. True, he will score, he can get a couple of assists done, maybe learn some table manners as he goes along, but he is not the essential Milanista – or gentleman.
Heroes of our glorious past include a long list of people who have never kicked somebody deliberately, think of Baresi and Maldini, Van Basten and Desailly, Rijkaard, Albertini, Donadoni, Massaro (that’s a striker…). Place Ibrahimovic in the same hall of fame and you’re faced with the problem of how to place a gigantic, greedy ogre with a great technique and the manners of a wild boar next to all those riches.
Will Ibrahimovic seal a place as one of Milan’s finest? Probably, but for now, I can hand him the title of PTF001. Unless he breaks my neck, that is.
written for footballxs.com.