COS columnist Liam Apicella takes a closer look at the why the Catalan giants and the Swedish giant were not the right fit for each other.
Now that that the ink on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s loan contract with AC Milan has dried, it can be fair to say that the move will not only work out for his current club, but also prove to be a wise move from his parent club Barcelona.
When the Swedish international joined the Spanish champions from Inter Milan just over a year ago, it was one of the most talked about deals of the summer – but not for all the right reasons.
Great Move for Eto’o
That switch saw Samuel Eto’o, a striker who had scored over 30 goals in the previous season, trade places with Ibrahimovic, while around €45m was also paid into the Italian club’s bank account.
Eto’o went on to play a part in Inter scooping an Italian League and Cup double, as well as the Champions League trophy – in truth the move couldn’t have gone any better for the man from Cameroon.
In contrast, Ibrahimovic’s time with the Catalan club cannot be branded as a success. In terms of trophies, Barca’s season certainly wasn’t a disaster as the club retained the La Liga title, accompanying that with triumph in the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup.
Despite this, during his stint at the Nou Camp, the tall centre forward had to endure constant speculation as to whether he was actually the right man to be integrated into Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back Barca should never have secured his services.
Not Suited to the Barca Way
Now this is not for one minute disputing the Swede’s ability. There are not many more naturally gifted front men in the world, however, his style of play simply did not fit into the Barca vision.
Ibrahimovic is a lanky striker with a cute first touch and an eye for the great goal. The modern day attacking Barca player is quick across the ground, a hard worker and able to beat an opponent on a consistent basis – all attributes not held by Ibrahimovic.
There were great moments for the 28-year-old, including superb goals against Real Madrid and Arsenal, but despite this Ibrahimovic and his team-mates never looked completely comfortable together.
A breakdown in communications with Guardiola was the final nail in the coffin, paving the way for a return to the San Siro with Milan.
So What Next?
Well securing the services of Ibrahimovic has given the Rossoneri their best chances of wrestling the Serie A crown from great rivals Inter in years.
The forward’s attributes are well suited the slower paced Italian game, a fact highlighted by his eye catching displays during a three year spell with Inter.
Milan to Mount Challenge
New Head Coach Massimiliano Allegri has also made the astute signing of Brazilian Robinho, and if his new duo can gel with Alexandre Pato and Ronaldinho, expect some mouth-watering football to be on show in Italy’s second city.
Guardiola Has His Man
But what of Barca? Well there will be little argument that Guardiola has finally replaced Eto’o appropriately with the addition of David Villa from Valencia.
The Spanish international was one of the stars from this summer’s World Cup and the way he plays the game suggests he was born to wear the famous Barcelona shirt.
A debut goal during his side’s 3-0 demolition of Racing Santander at the weekend has already adorned him to the Catalan club’s supporters, with even more certain to follow.
With all this in mind, it will be little surprise if Ibrahimovic and Villa, considering they are now comfortable in their surroundings, are not celebrating both individual and team glory at the end of their respective campaigns.