El Centrocampista

RETURN OF THE ZLAT – Ibra’s Milan come to the Camp Nou

By Lee Roden

After a poor result at the weekend against Real Sociedad, Pep Guardiola has wasted no time in making sure his players learn their lessons quickly, and re-focus on the task at hand.

In many ways, a draw like the one against Sociedad could not have occurred at a better time in the season.

If we cast our minds back to the opening home game of last season, when Barça were humiliated by Hercules at the Camp Nou, we see a similar blip to Saturday.

Soon after, Barça went on a winning streak that included the 5-0 hammering of Madrid at the Camp Nou (and the rest, to over simplify ridiculously, is history).

Occasionally, just occasionally, this group of players needs reminded of what happens when they don’tplay well, and they usually respond.

Has Ibrahimovic got a point to prove?

Milan’s visit to Catalunya is the perfect opportunity for the Barça players to banish any memories of the poor result in the Basque country.

If they can produce a commanding win against the rossoneri, all sins will soon be forgotten.

Milan are hardly the quickest team in the world, and if Barça can maintain their fast passing game to the usual standard (and not the ineffective version we saw on Saturday), then they should be too much for the Italians.

Some outsiders may be surprised to know that the focus in the Catalan media today has not been on Milan, but on Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Whether this is indicative of Milan’s fall in stature in world football, or just reflects Sport’s love of a good soap opera, I’m not certain. I’ll leave that one up to our readers.

Upon leaving Barça, Ibrahimovic wasted no time in belittling Pep Guardiola and the FC Barcelona institution alike.  Famously ridiculing Guardiola as “the philosopher”, Zlatan made no attempt to hide his disdain at being deemed surplus to requirements at the Camp Nou.

This type of behaviour is hardly a revelation from the Swede.

His latest outings in the press have been somewhat different, however. After the Champions League draw was made, Ibrahimovic again turned his attentions to Catalunya.

Except this time, his words were markedly less negative, noting that “What happened has happened, Pep is an incredible coach, and I have to look forward, not backwards”.

Incredible? What happened to the scornful cries of “philosopher”?

The more cynical amongst us might be tempted to think that Ibrahimovic has begun the process of damage limitation.

The Swede is many things, but stupid is not one of them. Along with the rest of the public, he will know that, should Milan fail to win against Barcelona across two legs, his brash comments about the club and its coach will surely resurface.

After all, if Guardiola is “the philosopher”, then his vision has proven to be correct, whereas Ibrahimovic still finds himself lacking a Champions League winners medal.

It will be interesting to see over the coming days which version of Zlatan we see; the outspoken, arrogant one we are all familiar with, or the pensive, articulate, gentle giant, that usually surfaces when he has just moved to a new club (or in this case is returning to his old one).

There’s no doubt about it, Ibrahimovic has a chip on his shoulder the size of a drawbridge.

The equation is actually pretty frightening. At Inter, Zlatan won everything except the big prize.

Upon his departure, the Italians were soon lifting the European Cup.

At Barça, Zlatan played well for the majority of the season, but was ineffective in Europe.

Upon his departure, the blaugrana were raising another Champions League trophy.

No wonder he’s bitter! (Though clearly not blameless.)

Underestimating Zlatan is foolish however, and his desire to prove doubters wrong will make him dangerous to Barcelona on the field.

In all likelihood though, against a Barcelona team that is itself trying to prove a point after the weekend, he may find it impossible to re-write past memories at the Camp Nou.

Cesc Fabregas may be the prodigal son, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one member of the Barça family no one wants to run into at a reunion.


  1. ollydawes

    12 September, 2011 at 20:02

    Shame he’s ‘injured’ for tomorrow. Not convinced myself, think he’s just weedling his way out of a return.

  2. leeroden

    12 September, 2011 at 22:36

    Spectacular timing Ibra, couldn’t you have waited til’ a day after my deadline to pull out?

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