As I write this, the only thing we know for sure about Zlatan Ibrahimovic is that he’s played his last match for Paris Saint-German.
Despite the fact that he’s 34, teams are lining up for the services of the talented Swedish striker. A few days ago, there were reports that he had overtures from China, MLS, La Liga and the Premier League.
Things are different now, as Manchester United seems poised to hire Jose Mourinho — a man for whom Ibrahimovic has the utmost respect.
“He’s nice,” he said of Mourinho in 2004. “The first time he met Helena (Ibrahimovic’s partner), he whispered to her: ‘Helena, you have only one mission. Feed Zlatan, let him sleep, keep him happy!’ That bloke says whatever he wants. I like him. He’s the leader of his army. But he cares, too.
“He’s the exact opposite of (Pep) Guardiola. If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I don’t understand when people say he is a difficult guy to work with, or a difficult personality,” Mourinho said. “A difficult personality (is) when you have to work with people who don’t want to win or don’t want to improve.
“When you have somebody that is a winner and wants to win all the time and wants to be the best and is not afraid of the big responsibilities, I think he is very, very easy. I only coached him for a year but it was a good year, a good experience — I rate him as one of the best players I have ever coached.”
So, assuming “The Special One” winds up at Manchester United, should he bring in Ibrahimovic? Let’s break it down:
- Ibrahimovic can still finish. He scored 38 goals in 31 league matches for PSG this season, and wound up with 50 in all competitions. By comparison, United only found the back of the net 49 times in its 38 EPL matches.
- As noted above, he and Mourinho have a good relationship. We’ve seen what Mourinho can accomplish when his players are behind him — and how sour things get when they are not.
- His press conferences will be amazing.
- In addition to being one of the world’s most prolific strikers, his goals are often special. Can you imagine Rebecca Lowe describing some of these finishes?
- He’s a “Man United player.” Or, put more simply, he’s the sort of player that teams intent on challenging for league and European trophies strive to bring in.
- One of the bright spots of the Louis van Gaal era was the number of young players he brought into the first team. Two of those players, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, play forward. One, or assuming Mourinho plays his favored 4-2-3-1 formation, both of them could be on the bench in favor of Ibra.
- The Wayne Rooney to midfield experiment would need to become a full-time thing. Some believe he could thrive there, but it’s hard to know for sure.
- The circus comes to Manchester. There’s no denying Ibrahimovic’s talent, but he brings an ego that sometimes creates issues for his club. This effect will likely be lessened under Mourinho, but it only takes one comment to the horde of media that follow him around to upset a dressing room.
For neutrals, this is unbelievable news. Ibrahimovic, even at 34, is one of the world’s best players and the idea of him and Mourinho teaming up to face Guardiola at City twice a year is very appealing.
For United fans, there may be a little more hesitation. But the fact remains — despite his massive ego and overwhelming personality — the guy knows where the back of the net is.
It’s hard to imagine this deal, should it happen, not helping the Red Devils.