Early Doors

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Still rubbish

The explosion of fawning nonsense when Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored last night was nothing short of embarrassing. Others may insist otherwise, but with Joe Hart stranded, his overhead kick was to all intents and purposes an open goal.

Some who should know better said the striker's acrobatic effort from 30 yards or so 'defied the laws of physics'. Nonsense. Quite the contrary in fact: Ibrahimovic was lucky the force of gravity existed or his speculative shot would have gone miles over the bar.

On first sight it might have looked pretty decent, Early Doors will grudgingly admit that much, but this was clearly a fluke. It had to be, because as we well know by now, having been told so time and time again, Ibrahimovic just doesn't score significant goals against English teams. He's the most over-rated player in world football, isn't he?

As an upstanding member of the press pack - the invitation to the Sunday Supplement must keep being lost in the post - Early Doors has never rated the Sweden striker and never will. A decent goal once every six months won't change that. Some of us hacks don't even bother to learn his surname - so insignificant is he compared to some of the players in our Premier League, or indeed Wilfried Zaha.

England fans were singing last night that Ibrahimovic was "just a s**t Andy Carroll", and they were clearly right. Has this Swedish chancer ever scored in an FA Cup semi-final? No. And his ponytail isn't as long. Case closed.

Though his four goals were pretty good — and perfectly timed too given it was Sweden's first game in their brand new Friends Arena, named after the 90s sitcom — we all know Ibrahimovic is a player who never does it on the biggest stage. Frankly, ED was disappointed that its good pal Jamie Redknapp finally bowed to the pressure from football hipsters and wrote in the Daily Mail that "last night the world woke up to the mighty Zlatan." Mighty? Bad form J Dog, bad form. ED hasn't 'woken up' to his genius, it carries on in blissful ignorance.

Those who thought a single outrageous goal might finally silence the anti-Zlatan lobby in the English press can think again. His career tally in the Greatest League in the World still stands at a pitiful zero. That's fewer than Tim Howard and Paul Robinson. An embarrassing state of affairs.

Zlatan even hinted as much last night: "That's the way it is with the English. If you score against them you're a good player, if you don't score against them you're not a good player. I remember Lionel Messi before the 2009 Champions League final for Barcelona... then he scored against Manchester United and suddenly he was the best player in the world. Maybe now they'll say something like that about me."

Not likely. Like Messi, Ibrahimovic is still yet to pass the infamous 'wet Wednesday night in Stoke' test that truly gives a measure of a player. Okay, so last night he embarrassed Stoke's Ryan Shawcross for the second goal, but it wasn't at the Britannia so it doesn't count. Plus it wasn't raining.

Look at last night in its entirety. Four decent hits, fair enough, but nothing that Emile 'Heskey Cam' Heskey couldn't produce on a good day, and Joe Hart was at fault for at least two. This was a classic case of when four goals in 90 minutes flatters a striker. It happens all the time.

Now look at his career as a whole. Some may say a record of nine league titles and a vast collection of brilliant goals are evidence of his greatness. ED, along with its tabloid mates, isn't fooled though. He's a big game bottler, a flat track bully, never does it on the big occasion. We know this because it has been said so many times that it must be true.

It has been from the start. In 2000 Ibrahimovic almost joined Arsenal and even posed in the club's shirt. The fact this transfer was never completed was not due to the fact that Arsenal wanted a player of his calibre to come on trial, as he himself has claimed, but instead Ibra had already recognised at this point that the English game was just too overwhelmingly brilliant and would dwarf his ability, exposing him for the chancer he was.

That summer Arsenal signed Sylvain Wiltord instead. Has Zlatan ever won the title with a goal at Old Trafford? No. Case closed. Again.

Ibrahimovic eventually went to Ajax — an easy pick, so easy in fact that defences just let him do ridiculous things like this. ED could score goals like that in the Netherlands. These three years of his career can be written off almost entirely. Those two league titles and a cup win mean nothing. For a start they occurred hundreds of miles away from England.

Then followed two years at Juventus. This coincided with Calciopoli, when Juve had two titles revoked, so again we can pretty much scrap these from the record books. The same goes for his three titles at Inter, which in the post-Calciopoli era again mean nothing at all, even if he did score crucial goal after crucial goal in arguably Europe's most demanding league for a striker. That CV's not looking so sparkly once you take seven league titles away eh?

But wait, it gets worse. Winning La Liga with Barcelona at the first attempt? How Zlatan can even be bothered to list this as an achievement is beyond ED. Francis Jeffers would have done the same. Would Jeffers have also scored the winner in a Clasico? We can't be sure. But because he is English it seems almost certain he would have done.

Okay, Ibrahimovic became the first player in the club's history to score in each of his first four league games, but so what? Absolutely none of the four teams he played were from the British Isles.

Then there was another Scudetto at Milan. Calciopoli probably had something to do with that. And in the 2011-12 season he failed to win a ninth league title in a ninth successive season. It was such an embarrassing turn of events he had to escape to France with a move to PSG. Even then his transfer was overshadowed by that of brave Brit Joey Barton to Marseille.

See, when you really look into it, and disregard all the league titles, the goals, the moments of genius, the incomparable touches and finishes, the utter audacity of the man and the extreme self-confidence manifested in mind-blowing moments, there's really not much to write home about. Zlatan Ibrahimovic: rubbish. Always has been, always will be.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We are not bothered about Joe Hart. He is a very good goalkeeper. We think we will have a lot of success with him in the goal even if tonight it wasn't maybe one of his best days. This happens in football." - Roy Hodgson keeps faith with his number one despite a difficult night between the sticks.

FOREIGN VIEW: What did the Swedish newspapers make of the first night at the new national stadium and Ibrahimovic's wonder goal, ED doesn't hear you ask...

"Is he from another planet? Has he ever been better? The answer to question number one is 'he has to be'. The answer to number two is 'no'." — Anders Lindblad, Svenska Dagbladet.

"He is our best player and our obvious leader. He erases the boundaries between fantasy and reality. He is our present and our future packed into the same tattooed torso." — Erik Niva, Aftonbladet.

"Last night the first game on the new national arena was played. The Arena was named Friends Arena. It was a beautiful thought. Immediately after the game versus England it got a new name. From now on it is known as Zlatan Arena." — Mats Olsson, Expressen.

COMING UP: Alex Chick chips in with the latest edition of Tactical Brain and the Fantasy Preview while we get Jan Molby's thoughts on England's defeat to Sweden. Pitchside Europe also has the latest line from the Bundesliga this evening.