Having recently claimed that he will only play for Paris Saint-Germain during the 2016-2017 season if “they replace the Eiffel Tower with a statue (of him)”, it seems necessary to assess the potential landing spots for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
As a lover of English football, it would be a dream come true for me and the large majority of Premier League fans to see Ibrahimovic see out his career in the UK. Unfortunately, at 34 years old he isn’t getting any younger, and therefore he may shy away from a move to the most physically demanding league in the world.
The list below has been compiled through analysing the current squads within world football, and assessing their need for a striker; but it is also important to consider the opinions and evaluation of Ibrahimovic himself, as he is unlikely to play for just anybody.
If Ibrahimovic was to come to the English League, there are only two possible destinations for him; the first of those is Manchester United. Even if just on a short term deal, the Red Devils are desperate for somebody to come in and relieve some of the mounting pressure on United’s strike force… and management.
Anthony Martial has been somewhat of a revelation in the 2015/16 season, however he has had to spend much of his time on the flanks as injuries mounted, and there was a drop in the form of many wide players. It has therefore fallen on the shoulders of young Marcus Rashford to provide the goals for Manchester United. As shown in the first leg against Liverpool, despite his obvious natural talent, he is not yet ready to perform on the biggest stages.
Although signing a player such as Ibrahimovic may prolong Martial’s stay out wide, it certainly won’t harm his development. At only 20 years old Martial still has plenty to learn in order to fulfil the mammoth price paid for him last summer, and there is nobody in world football who has been better at justifying price-tags or silencing critics than Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic spent much of his time at AC Milan improving his game thanks to the likes of Filippo Inzaghi and Ronaldinho. By uniting England legend Wayne Rooney and a figure like Zlatan Ibrahimovic the two would be able to give Martial an understanding of the game unparalleled by any other young striker in world football.
When evaluating the global transfer market for players who fit the description of what the Red Devils need, there are few better economical options than Ibrahimovic. With the fact that he is due to fit the Free Agent Market in the summer, and the fact that he would only be signing on a 1 or 2 year deal, there are few investments which make more sense to target than the Swede. So, I would not be surprised to see him in a red shirt during the 2016-2017 campaign.
You can see the headline now: ‘Arsenal decided against signing Ibrahimovic for £100,000 when he was just 19, but now opt to bring him in for nothing some 15 years later.’
Arsene Wenger has needed a striker since he let Robin Van Persie leave, and although he has explored many, many options, he must be nearing the conclusion that you need a genuine world beater leading the line if you expect to challenge for the Premier League title.
Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott aren’t world beaters – but Ibrahimovic is.
Wenger has time and time again stuck by his strikers, but this season has conclusively proved that Arsenal need to target somebody who is world class, as Giroud has recently struggled to take hold of a game against weak opposition. Something that wouldn’t happen if he was a striker capable of getting 20+ goals a season.
Besides the confusion at centre-back, there is a spine of a title winning team at Arsenal: Cech, Koscielny, Ramsey, Ozil and Sanchez. The only thing that is missing which would make this talented side genuine title contenders is a world class forward.
The Gunners had the perfect opportunity to run away with the league this season: Chelsea, Manchester City,and United and Liverpool are all having disappointing seasons of their own, and if Arsenal were able to capitalise, the league would’ve been theirs for the taking. Instead, the battle for the title is a two-horsed race between their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, and unlikely contenders Leicester City.
Wenger is being pushed into a position where he must win now, and it will therefore be playing on his mind that Ibrahimovic has won the league for every team that he’s played for. Even if the Arsenal front-office aren’t a superstitious bunch, that factoid alone must make him worth a punt.
The league where Ibrahimovic has found the majority of his domestic success, Zlatan may decide to play out his final years back in Italy. Although on the surface it seems as though major clubs in Italy have found their talisman, there are a few clubs who may look to bring in a superstar name to bolster their front line. But one team who is in desperate need of help is AS Roma.
Roma’s lone stirker is Edin Dzeko, but in a league with Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Carlos Bacca, many fans might argue that he isn’t enough to let Roma reach the heights that they aspire to. This view holds some weight, as although Dzeko played well for Manchester City, he made his most notable contributions as a substitute for Sergio Aguero.
Something else which might force the hand of manager Luciano Spalletti is the Francesco Totti shaped hole which will permeate through the entire team going into next year. Losing such an iconic figure for the club will have a huge impact on the current squad, and bringing in someone of Ibrahimovic’s reputation may give the team a lift to start the new campaign.
Roma have drawn 8 games so far this season, which is the most of any team in the top 5 of the Serie A. Currently on track for a 3rd place finish and finding them 8 points behind leaders Juventus, it is clear that Roma could use the help of Ibrahimovic in an attempt to push the current squad to a level that competes with Juventus’ stars; such as Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio and Dybala.
The Chinese Super League:
Who could blame him? Ibrahimovic has won every major league title their is to win, besides the Premier League and the Bundesliga. A multitude of league titles, a plethora of domestic cups and a career which has seen him dominate European football for the best part of two decades.
Go make your money, sir.
Now, I’m not saying that over the course of his career Ibrahimovic hasn’t made enough money. Alongside his mammoth contracts with some of the richest clubs in Europe, he has signed multi-million dollar endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, which, despite Sweden not qualifying, saw Ibrahimovic become one of the most talked about phenomena during the 2014 World Cup.
But, at 34, it seems as though Ibrahimovic’s best playing days are behind him, so if the opportunity to go back to Serie A doesn’t come to fruition, or he feels as though he wouldn’t be able to do himself justice in the Premier League, no football fan could begrudge Ibrahimovic for making the move to China.
In an ever expanding football market, he would serve as the face of the entire league, enticing sponsorships, licensing agreements and TV rights deals, which would give him huge room for negotiation during contract talks.
If the reports from his agent are true, and there were Chinese teams that seemed willing to make Fernando Torres the highest paid player in the world, then it is impossible to suggest the sort of salary that Ibrahimovic would be able to pick up if he moved across to Asia.
Wherever he ends up playing football – as always; I, along with the rest of the footballing community cannot wait to see him continue to dominate on a world stage.
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