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Mistake of the decade? July 18, 2009

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Uncategorized.
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As a Barcelona fan, I groan at every mention of a certain center forward. Depite unalloyed brilliance, he demands too much money, turns up to too few games, and has and ego big for any planet, let alone dressing room, to contain.

Even if the club’s transfer honchos did nothing else this summer, I will still be thankful they dodged a bullet if he is playing in any colors but Blaugrana next season.

And because this is one of the most hackneyed tropes in a writer’s tookit, I’m sure by now you know I’m not talking about Samuel Eto’o, but instead Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Barca’s agreement to trade the Cameroonian to Inter for the Swede has been lauded by the Guardian, but I find myself feeling weary. I thought the aforementioned characteristics, alongside the imminence of Eto’o’s 30s, were the club’s reasons to jettison him. Though it tied my heartstrings in knots after five outrageous seasons of football from Africa’s three-time player of the year, I agreed.

Yet now we look poised to bring in a man with all the same faults. Ibrahimovic is also an utterly unprecedented talent and has been one of my favorite non-blaugrana to watch over the years. I doubt any footballer has ever alloyed such suppleness with that kind of verve. But Ibrahimovic is also, if anything, more combustible in the dressing room than Eto’o.

What’s more, though both are inconsistent, Eto’o had a habit of turning up on the very biggest stage, (and that’s balance-shifting goals in two Champions League finals, if you were counting) while Ibrahimovic is a notorious choker in big moments. Eto’o, at the least, has always demanded the ball as voraciously on defense as he does on offense, even when he’s not playing well. Ibrahimovic seems utterly uninterested in it. And Eto’o’s directness and verticality have leavened our studied build-up for years. Ibrahimovic is a man who slows the game down, very much like those Barca’s two otherwise-brilliant style-crampers of the decade, Patrick Kluivert and Juan Roman Riquelme.

Of course, above all else, Ibrahimovic also resembles Johan Cruyff, the key man in the last half-century of Barcelona history. As this blog points out, he’s never really played alongside a team this good, and internecine battles left bullet holes in the last dressing room he was part of. I’m not saying he’s a nailed-on failure. I’m just saying I’m damn nervous. And that I’ll miss Eto’o.

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