The transfer of confident (i.e. cocky), enigmatic (erratic) powerfully-nosed (massive hooter) attacker Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Barcelona to Milan confirms two things: statistics are as misleading as ever and Barca coach Pep Guardiola is tougher than he looks.
Ibra’s fans will happily direct dissenters to the Swede’s 2009/10 figures. The numbers aren’t too bad- 16 goals in the league and four in the Champions League. Statistics are very useful and many a respected journalist has built an argument around them.
But in this case they are worthless. Because anyone who saw Ibra play for Barca, in the flesh or otherwise, saw the truth. Regardless of what a dry, academic table of stats says, football is a game involving humans working together.
So often Barca’s slick attacks, which fired them to six trophies in 2009, would slow down at the feet of Ibra. Little dynamos Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta and Pedrito buzzed around but the ball got clogged up while Ibra weighed up the options. It was like someone had suddenly flooded a pin-ball machine with treacle.
The whole signing seemed illogical. Why did Guardiola bring him in from Inter? The Catalans had just won the treble. It looked a bit ‘wrong’. Zlatan in the famous red and blue shirt was something you couldn’t deny- your eyes saw it. But it was a bit ‘iffy’, like Lando Calrissian flying the Millennium Falcon, or Gordon Brown at number ten.
Pep hasn’t wasted any time. There will be no second chance for Ibra in la Liga. It hasn’t worked, off you go to Milan, chico. The £54m plus Samuel Eto’o it cost to get the forward? Doesn’t matter. Move on. Guardiola looks like a frail poet or someone who owns a whole food shop selling over 1,000 different types of seeds. But the former Barcelona skipper has got balls of steel.
Dale Carnegie, the legendary American writer, put great stock in the ability of a person to admit mistakes. “I have certainly made errors with Ibra. But I’ll try to remain calm and do the best for the club,” Guardiola said.
That means moving the 6ft 5inch striker on to the San Siro. There might be articles defending Ibra’s season at the Camp Nou. Intelligent folk with a pile of numbers will build the case ‘for’. But who are they to argue with Pep Guardiola? In Serie A between 2004 and 2009 they called him Ibra-cadabra. In Catalonia he was Ibra-cadaver.
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