I have a confession.
Nothing too bad, I haven’t expanded a tournament from 16 to 24 teams or anything like that.
It’s about an autobiography I haven’t read. That of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
As I am a sport correspondent for a world network…as he is one of world’s best players…as he also has employers in Qatar (he earns more)…as he is one of sport’s most interesting characters…and the book has plenty of good reviews…don’t you agree I should have read it?!
But the thing is, he’s just not very likeable is he? Something about his arrogance. it might even be something about his face? As someone once (unfairly) said about Glenn Hoddle, “If he was made of chocolate he’d eat himself.”
And so today I hold my hand up and admit that not only have I failed to read this important piece of sports literature, but that I am guilty of not fully appreciating his extraordinary talent. Perhaps you are guilty of this too?
It was Sepp Blatter, yes Sepp Blatter, who pointed out there are three special talents, not just Messi and Ronaldo. This as a time when many, myself included, suggested Suarez as the third best player on the planet. Others of course point to Xavi and Iniesta for their wonderful individual contributions to the team ethic.
A friend pointed out that comparing players can never be an exact science and is ultimately futile. The great Brazilian philosopher Socrates poured cold water all over the Pele/Maradona debate, calling it childish and ridiculing them for squabbling over ‘who’s best’. But no-one earns more than Ibrahimovic from football so if it is true you are paid what you’re worth he’s doing okay on that front.
Witnessing another super goal and performance in the Champions league last week, then seeing another hat-trick to his name for PSG at the weekend, I realised his club achievements are compensating for World Cup heartbreak.
How far were Sweden going to go in Brazil anyway? I’ve seen far better Sweden teams and Portugal deserved their place in the finals. Perhaps it’s better this way.
And from the low of coming-off second best to Ronaldo in the World Cup play-off (on the pitch, he gave his all verbally) Ibrahimovic is turning 2013/14 into a season to be proud of.
Maybe I’m being harsh on myself, I’ve probably always been a closet Zlatan fan.
I’ve never been shy to bang on about that most subjective of things, his goals. He has scored two of the best five goals I’ve ever seen.
The famous effort against England that’s get better with every view. http://youtu.be/Ck5P30zC3Z0
And if you haven’t seen this for Ajax – so good it becomes funny – stop what you are doing and hit this link now. http://youtu.be/ZgqsaDnsEq8
There was also that exquisite flick for a matchwinner v Bastia this season, a goal that would have been physically impossible for most players.
And another improbable backflick against Italy in Euro 2004. But the replays suggest he fully meant it. http://youtu.be/9Fn4IMnJlAc
What a portfolio! What a player! I feel like the producer in ‘The Paper’ who realises that people want spectacular falling dominoes, or spectacular goals, rather than a boring thesis about what isnewsworthy!
It’s easy to predict a golden three months ahead for Ibrahimovic. Will PSG win the French league again? Yes.
Can he win the golden shoe for Europe’s leading marksman? Yes, I have a feeling he might.
Will he score another wondergoal or three along the way? Undoubtedly.
And the Champions League? Maybe not this season. Though with an incredible eight league titles under his belt in five countries he doesn’t actually need winners medals to prove anything.
Then he’ll turn up his collar and his sneer for the World Cup. Unlike Best or Weah or Giggs or Bale he did at least played in the finals. And remember he had retired from international football previously so it’s not like it meant as much to him as it could or should have done.
Rather like being Brazilian doesn’t automatically make you a great player, nor does being in Brazil in June. Ibrahimovic doesn’t need this World Cup to prove he is a truly great footballer.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport