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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: I will prove I'm not a Euro flop

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30 Mar 2010 23:32:36

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: I will prove I'm not a Euro flop

The rationale behind Barcelona's dogged pursuit of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was difficult to fathom. Some thought a deal which eventually saw Barca hand £43million to Inter Milan, plus £17m-rated Samuel Eto'o, ranked as one of the most costly mistakes of all time. Seen as a disruptive influence, Barcelona were happy to offload Eto'o. But the decision to replace him with a player carrying a reputation of being even more divisive in the dressing room and one who did not score as many goals just did not make sense to many. One school of thought is that Barcelona had to be in the market for a big-name player because Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was busily building his second generation of galacticos. Ibrahimovic was the only global star left on the market while the chance to get rid of Eto'o rather than hand him a lucrative new deal was too good to miss. There was, however, much more behind Barcelona's thinking that tryingto steal some of the limelight from Real while shipping out an unwantedplayer. Teenage kicks: Ibrahimovic was obviously a fan of Arsenal as 19 year old The manner of Barcelona's victory over Chelsea last season was pivotal. Andres Iniesta scored a last-gasp equaliser to progress on the away goal rule but the situation alarmed coach Pep Guardiola. The football Barca played may have been the envy of the world, but faced with a side capable of doggedly defending, Guardiola came to the conclusion a 'Plan B' was needed. A powerful skilful target man was required and Ibrahimovic fitted the bill. Guardiola counts Almeria manager Juanma Lillo as a mentor. 'Zlatan provides mouth to mouth to dying moves,' said Lillo in reference to Ibrahimovic's ability to retain possession and bring team-mates back into play. In his first campaign in La Liga, Ibrahimovic's scoring record is not shabby. His season has been punctuated by injury, but 15 goals from 24 games stands up to scrutiny. The figures are less impressive in European competition. A player of Ibrahimovic's undeniable talent should have reaped a better return than just 17 goals from 67 Champions League appearances. And if part of the reason for signing Ibrahimovic was to offer Barcelona a different dimension in the face of determined opposition, then perhaps Guardiola did not study the striker's figures against English sides. In 10 appearances against English opposition playing for Ajax, Juventus and Inter Milan - twice against Arsenal, twice against Liverpool and recently against Manchester United - Ibrahimovic has not scored. And a lack of goals has often been accompanied by poor displays. How could this be a player Arsene Wenger attempted to sign fromMalmo before his move to Ajax. And how could he be described by JoseMourinho as better than Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. But confident Ibrahimovic is determined to put on a show forEnglish doubters at the Emirates Stadium tonight. 'It motivates me,'said Ibrahimovic who once claimed the only thing that could stop himfrom becoming the best player in the world was injury. 'You hear thecriticism but I criticise myself more. I haven't paid attention to whatthe English have said. Obviously, Barcelona knew what they were buying. 'But I haven't performed at my best when I have played English teams.For Italian teams to play against English sides, it's not easy. Theythink differently, they are very tactical. For Italian teams it is more important not to concede a goal. But where I play now, it is very important to score goals. 'I played with world-class players at Inter and Juventus. World-classplayers make you better and Barca have better players than Inter. Ihope they can make be better. I want to be as complete as possible todo that you have to train hard and play with the best.' That wave of modesty over with, cocksure Ibrahimovic could not resist a more barbed riposte to the critics. 'The people who know football know the way I can play,' he added. 'I don't have to demonstrate anything to anybody. I think 've six league titles in a row so I don't know how much I have to prove after that.' Perhaps, but he would savour a goal against an English club tonight. Just as those who questioned whether Leo Messi's lack of goals against side's from these shores meant he was the real deal got their answer in last year's final, so Ibrahimovic is eager to similarly silence critics tonight. Using Messi's goal as the perfect inspiration, Ibrahimovic signed off with the following message: 'They (the critics) talk and Messi scored in the final and won the Champions. What goes around comes around!'  Cesc Fabregas in race to face Barcelona as injured Arsenal skipper sits out trainingBarlcelona menace Messi doesn't scare Arsenal defender VermaelenBarca chief predicts progress and hails Guardiola's 'almost perfect' team


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