Keeping Ibra

Much has been said about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his potential future at AC Milan since the end of the season. He has personally spoken to the press about his disappointment in not winning the league this year and has hinted at an exit from the club this summer. A lot people have said that if we can get a decent price for him, we should offload him before he deserts us. But I disagree. Like Thiago Silva, Ibra is key to our potential success next year. So I say that even if it’s only one more year, we absolutely must keep him at all costs.

Bring in the Lilliputians if you must, but Milan must keep Ibra

I have previously referred to Ibra as the “Mary Poppins of Football, going from club to club helping them until some other club needs him.” Others call him a mercenary. Whatever. Regardless of what you call him, his track record shows he only stays at a club 1-3 years before moving on. And we just finished year two. So we are on borrowed time if we are to keep the big Swede. And his exit is even more likely in that despite being Capocannoniere this past season, the only person to achieve this at 2 different clubs, Milan broke his incredible title winning streak this year. Ibra doesn’t like losing.

Your work here is not done yet, Ibra

But why would we bend over backwards to keep him? Most immediately obvious is his quality. At the age of 30, he just finished the best season of his career. With an amazing 35 goals in 44 appearances for Milan last season as well as 10 assists in all competitions, he is extraordinary even on paper. Even if you take out his goals scored on penalty kicks, where he is almost unstoppable, those are some great numbers. It would be hard to find someone else that could even achieve those stats.

He is ginormous, strong, and can play up front, in a secondary role, or even drop back further as needed, and sometimes will do all of the above, all in the same game. He is 8 parts super hero, 2 parts super villain, and either way, fends of defenders like they were flies. If he has a weakness offensively, it’s getting called for offside. (It’s those darned big feet of his.) He can and has partnered successfully with many different types of strikers, and over his 2 years at Milan, we have seen his play become much less selfish.

No one practices tough love like Ibra.

As a teammate, he is not at all Mary Poppins, he’s more of the abusive stepfather. He’ll slap, kick or scream at anyone, friend or foe. And yet his unique style of “leadership” has its advantages. Even if it is a respect borne of fear, his teammates acknowledge that he wants to win at all costs and have said time and time again that he inspires them to work harder and play better.

This will be even more important this year, as w have lost a lot of that leadership with most of the senators leaving. Both Ambrosini and Abbiati are more of the quiet type, the lead by example kind of players. But Ibra is more of the Pippo, Gattuso, Nesta, and Seedorf all put together, with a portion of street thug for good measure. Him being given the number 10 jersey is more than symbolic of what he does on the pitch, it is also a symbol of his “rented” grinta and leadership in the dressing room.

The love Ibra has for his teammates is priceless.

Of course, there are the disciplinary issues. Red cards and multiple game bans for mouthing off or slapping opponents, even if he is defending a teammate or it is done in retaliation. These issues will not be missed. But they are a small price to pay for the benefits he brings to the team the rest of the season.

So a lot of people have said that we should sell him if we can get 30 million or more. Then take that money and buy 3 other players to reinforce the squad elsewhere. But Ibra is irreplaceable. Even just as a striker. I cannot think of another striker anywhere that even has 90% of what he brings to the pitch. And I can’t think of anyone anywhere who could just walk into the dressing room and command the respect and instill the desire to win like he can, either.

Yes, Ibra, if you stay, we'll win more trophies, whatever it takes.

But it’s not just respect in the dressing room. It’s respect throughout the footballing world. If Ibra leaves, Milan suddenly have football “cooties.” What top player would want to come to a team who can’t hold on to its best player? And what is wrong with the club that Ibra would want to leave? Keeping him for his ability to attract other quality players is worth every penny we pay him, if you ask me. And the reality that there are plenty of players who would come to Milan just to play beside him makes it that much more pressing.

Maybe next year, after the transition has been made, we could live without him. Maybe. But right now, he is the link to the Scudetto winning Milan of 2011 and the team of 2012-13. A player whose value goes well beyond his price in euros. Without him, we may as well just start over altogether and hope we finish in the top 10 in the league and don’t embarrass ourselves in the Champions League. But with him, we can get away with whatever reinforcements are in the cards for us this summer. Because Ibra brings a winning mentality, he makes everyone around him know that they are a champion. Ibra IS win.

Ibra will captain Sweden's national team at EURO 2012 as they face
co-hosts Ukraine on Monday, June 11th 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

This post inspired by the music of Styx

Keeping Ibra Keeping Ibra Reviewed by Elaine on 3:28 AM Rating: 5
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