Manchester United’s hiring of Jose Mourinho has led to widespread speculation that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is due to follow him.
Ibrahimovic is currently a free agent after his Paris St. Germain contract expired and has naturally been linked with United, considering he worked with Mourinho at Inter Milan.
The Swede is 35 years old and there are some reservations about signing him – we list a few why it would be the perfect signing for United.
Two years ago United were able to compensate their absence from the Champions League with a couple of mega signings. Angel Di Maria and Falcao were statements of intent, the former being the man of the match in the Champions League Final just three months prior to becoming United’s record signing.
At the time, these arrivals were huge for the profile of the club as it meant they had showed they could still compete and attract star names. Fast forward two years and failure to qualify for the continent’s premier competition has damaged their reputation to the point where it is nigh on impossible to even entertain the prospect of bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale this summer (not that it is anyway, but still…).
Had Mourinho arrived at United straight from Real Madrid it would have been the perfect antidote to Sir Alex Ferguson retiring but now not even the best manager in the world can disguise the damage two finishes outside of the top four can bring. But what he can do is the next best thing in his power and that is, bring in the highest profile player he can. Ibrahimovic sits neatly in that tier 2 of players behind Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and is the star name that might just convince others to follow.
Of course, it might turn out just as bad as Falcao, but, this is a player who doesn’t have a track record of being in the injury room. Which brings us to…
It’s not a gamble
‘But, he’s on £300k a week’, some cry, as if it’s their money, or as if the fact that Ashley Young is on more than £100k a week is palatable. Even if the wages seem extortionate, there’s no transfer fee, and are the wages that excessive for a player with that kind of track record?
If offered to sign one of the best players in the world, do you turn it down? ‘But Falcao and Di Maria arrived with big reputations, and look how badly that turned out! Plus, he’s too old!’ Of course, but do you stop buying players altogether? Which brings us to…
He is still quality
Even if you would expect a player of his gargantuan ego to suggest he’s ‘just warming up’ the fact is that he’s nearing the end of his top flight career. And yet with fifty goals last season, there is enough to suggest he’s at least not over-compensating. Yes, the French league is woeful in terms of competitiveness, but they say that about the Spanish league too whenever Ronaldo and Messi’s goal stats are brought up.
He is capable of the brilliant and, quite frankly, it’s a golden opportunity for both player and club. After all, this is a player who walks into United’s first team, no questions asked. Which brings us to…
He’ll limit opportunities for Rashford
This may have some truth in it but there’s also enough to suggest that the youngster will be given the opportunity to continue. Let’s be fair, Rashford has only been on the scene since February but next season people will be talking about his ‘second year in the Premier League’. Eyes will be on him, particularly if – as he should, after his goalscoring debut – he’s included as the wild card for England’s European Championship squad. Don’t forget that Anthony Martial will have the same eyes on him. The introduction of Ibrahimovic would theoretically lessen that pressure as everyone will be waiting to see how he performs in England.
It might not happen
Yes, it makes a lot of sense, but it also makes a lot of sense to acknowledge that these rumours benefit Ibrahimovic just as much as they do United. There is nothing from United’s side to justify the talk, but it must be remembered that as a free agent pondering his next (and possibly last) big money move, it is absolutely in Zlatan’s interests to pander to that line of questioning. United are by far the biggest club interested in him and even if he ends up going to China or the United States, this round of speculation has done wonders for an ego that barely needs it.
And it’s only paper talk at this point. Wasn’t Mourinho also on the verge of signing Benzema and Higuain before he’d even got the job officially? It’s already been too long an elaborate flirtation to prolong without any substance materialising soon so if there is nothing to report tomorrow or Monday you may as well file this one under the Wesley Sneijder category of transfer rumours rather than the Bastian Schweinsteiger.