The Ibrahimovic transfer continues to generate heated discussions among FC Barcelona fans. Count on Sid Lowe to put the pros and cons of the deal straight up. In his latest column for Guardian, the writer couldn’t sum up the entire saga better. Lowe suggests that while the club let go of Ibrahimovic, they got a significant signing in the form of David Villa, who was always the first choice of Pep Guardiola. However, as the headline suggests, this transfer came at a heavy cost.
Lowe on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mino Raiola
Zlatan and Raiola, his agent, have become the stars of the summer, after the Spain squad and José Mourinho. Comic book bad guys who have confronted the world, taking on FC Barcelona and the one person you’re just not supposed to take on – coach Pep Guardiola. The same Guardiola who Ibrahimovic said has “spoken to me only twice in six months,” that Raiola attacked so bitterly. Barcelona switched on Spain’s default setting and announced legal action – to which Raiola declared: “No one tells me to shut up … except Zlatan.” The same Guardiola that Raiola said, “should be in a mental hospital,” “has a problem with himself,” and would “leave the Camp Nou before Zlatan does.” After all, he added: “It’s simple maths: Zlatan has four years on his contract, Guardiola just one.”
While creating an amusing portrait of Raiola, Lowe also reminds readers of what the agent has managed to do in the last two years
He’s [Raiola] about to be proven wrong. But although they’re going to lose, by God, they’re going to take them down with them. Although they’re going to lose, although Guardiola is ultimately going to get his way, they’re going to win too. Those who called Raiola an idiot, the world’s worst agent, are as wrong as those who call Pedro López the world’s worst serial killer. Look at it his way: he’s the best. Yes, he’s a clown and a big mouth, a walking parody, but he’s a ludicrously rich one, feisty as hell and successful too. Ibrahimovic has now commanded €140m in transfer fees. You’ve got to admire their balls. Just don’t let them catch you doing it.
Lowe on how Ibrahimovic charted his own exit
Scared? Who’d be scared of a 6ft 3in, 13st Swede with a deathly stare and a mean temper who Raiola says “could slap me into next week”? No, Guardiola wasn’t scared of Ibrahimovic, he was sick of him. Disappointed by his contribution and his attitude. As one insider puts it: “Zlatan thinks he’s Messi and he’s not.” For all that the coach was seduced by the idea of having a Plan B, it hadn’t worked when they needed it most. When Barcelona made a final, hugely impressive push for the title, they did so without Ibrahimovic and with Bojan Krkic. The group mattered most so at the end of the campaign. He insisted on Barcelona selling the Swede – no matter what the cost.
Lowe adds that while the transfer may haunt FC Barcelona for some time, the club has also emerged a bruised-and-battered winner through it
And that’s the thing. When the dust finally settled, Barcelona went into the opening game of the season and destroyed Racing Santander with two wonderful finishes from Messi and Iniesta. There was also – and you should get used to this phrase – a goal from Villa. It may have been costly, painful, and hugely embarrassing, it may still come back to bite them but now, at last, after all the bickering and the shouting and the name-calling; after the accusation and counter-accusation, the chest-puffing and posturing, Raiola has finally got what he wanted – a huge great big lorry pulling into his drive loaded with cash – but so have Barcelona. The harmony Guardiola demanded and the perfect addition to an already fantastic side, a striker who should have joined a really, really big club years ago. “This team is even better than last year,” the Racing coach Miguel-Ángel Portugal sighed.
Lowe highlights that Ibrahimovic was not Guardiola’s first choice for striker last year
It looked like a ridiculous deal then: it looks like even more of a ridiculous deal now. It also underlines an uncomfortable truth: Guardiola wanted David Villa but – for reasons of finance, football, and ‘feeling’ – he wanted shot of Eto’o more. It became an obsession. It was largely the fact that Inter would take him that forced their hand and finally ensured it would be Ibrahimovic that signed instead. Now, at last, Barcelona have the player they really want. But it has cost them €40m to sign Villa – the same price a year later.
Sid Lowe’s complete article can be read here.