In November 2012 Zlatan Ibrahimović put England to the sword with four goals, the fourth one of the greatest of all time. In 2001 Arsenal came close to having the Swedish genius for themselves...
It’s fairly widely known that in 2001 Arsene Wenger was looking for a striker and Zlatan Ibrahimović was available. The 21-year-old Swede was making a name for himself at Malmö and felt that he’d outgrown the Allsvenskan. Wenger did what any manager interested in a promising but unproven player would do and invited him to London for a trial. Obviously that was an insult and Ibra has since said of the meet, ‘"I didn't have a trial - I came for talks with Arsenal.” "But Wenger wanted me to do a trial and I said: 'I don't do trials. You know who I am." At the time one of his representatives is said to have uttered the immortal line ‘Zlatan does not do auditions”. And with that the talks broke down.
But what if? What if Zlatan took the trial and after tying Oleg Luzny in knots for 10 minutes Wenger signed him? What if Arsene took Ibra’s reference (for himself) onboard and decided to give the big man the job of leading the line at Highbury? What if Zlatan joined Arsenal?...
Before you part time theoretical physicists and full time football fans get started, I know. We will never know because it’s impossible to travel backwards in time plus if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle. But this is a football thought experiment so bear with me.
"I didn't have a trial - I came for talks with Arsenal.” "But Wenger wanted me to do a trial and I said: 'I don't do trials. You know who I am." At the time one of his representatives is said to have uttered the immortal line ‘Zlatan does not do auditions”
First off if he’d signed for Arsenal instead of Ajax there would be little chance he would have been wearing yellow last night. Of all the players in Arsenal’s squad when Ibra would have joined only one played for them last night. And that was Thierry Henry. But the likelihood that Zlatan would have moved by now even if he did sign for he Gunners 11 years ago kind of p***es on what I’m getting at so for now we’ll leave that to one side.
In this alternative universe Arsenal would have paid £1.5 million less for Zlatan than they did for Franny Jeffers. With Ibra in their ranks the Gunners would have won the last eight Premier League titles but would have been rubbish in Europe.
Fortunately for this flight of fancy his failure to do it in the Champions League doesn’t stretch to domestic competitions. Plenty of the teams he’s failed to turn up against in the European Cup have been put to the sword when he’s moved to that country including the traditional Italian giants and Real Madrid. So being anonymous against Spurs in two legs last season wouldn’t translate to being bobbins against Tottenham in a north London derby.
But perhaps most usefully for Arsenal if he played for them the Gunners wouldn’t have to face him in the mood he was in last night. Although traditionally dog dirt against English opposition Zlatan seems to find a bit extra for Arsenal. His first goals against English competition came against them in by far his best performance on English soil, scoring twice in an amazing 2-2 draw in 2010.
Then there was last night. His most convincing performance in a Champions League knockout match. He was simply the best player on the pitch. He created six chances, had two assists, won a penalty and scored a goal of his own to boot. Far more potent than the whole of the Arsenal front line combined. When his ego and talent operate at the same level like that he’s very difficult to stop.
Whether it would have worked at Arsenal or his ego would have made it a painful union there’s one thing beyond dispute, they could have done with him last night.
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