If it wasn’t for Florentino Perez and his early transfer window ‘shock and awe’ superstar shopping spree, a shopping spree which has seen the triple trophy winning exploits of Joan Laporta’s men at the Camp Nou quickly forgotten by anyone not from Catalunya, then what must be regarded as the summer’s most ludicrous deal to date would surely never have come to fruition.
Yes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona is ludicrous. More ludicrous than Lyon paying 24 million euros for the unproven Lisandro Lopez; more ludicrous than Benfica paying 7 million euros for the nowhere near good enough Javi Garcia; and far more ludicrous than Manchester City paying upwards of 30 million euros for the staggeringly overrated Emmanuel Adebayor. It is simply astounding.
It can’t have been easy for Laporta and Co. to watch on as Perez signed, in the space of a couple of weeks, not one, but two, dual FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or winners. If this wasn’t pain enough, they then had to deal with being beaten to the signature of a player they (and most of Europe) desperately wanted, one of the world’s most promising forwards in Karim Benzema.
But, to their credit, through it all they took the moral high ground. “We will not stretch the arm more than the sleeve,” Laporta told AS. “We will make the changes we have to make, but the players that are interesting to us, we must get them under reasonable conditions.”
So far, the Catalans have brought in three new Brazilians – a quality left back in Maxwell, plus two exciting youngsters in defender Henrique (back from a loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen) and striker Keirrison from Palmeiras. Each of these deals represents careful consideration of both the present needs and future vision of the club.
But whilst astute, these deals have hardly been headline grabbing. And Laporta knows it. He knows that, to refocus world football attention away from the Spanish capital, away from Florentino and his Galacticos, and back on his club, he needs a major signing. A massive signing. He needs his own Galactico.
That Galactico was supposed to be David Villa. The Valencia striker would have been perfect. He’s a genuine superstar and would fit in wonderfully as a direct replacement for the departing Eto’o. Plus, signing the man who Perez really wanted but couldn’t get would have been a major victory. A symbol of Barca’s continued domination of Madrid.
He made a great offer, 42 million euros plus Keirrison on loan, but it wasn’t “scandalous” enough for Manuel Llorente, and in the end, Valencia wouldn’t budge. Neither would Bayern Munich when it came to Franck Ribery. And as for poor old Diego Forlan, the reigning Pichichi winner and six million euro cheaper option than Villa, simply wasn’t a big enough name in the end.
And so, in desperation, Laporta has turned to Ibrahimovic, the man Perez passed on, the man willing to play anywhere as long as it wasn’t the San Siro, the man widely regarded as a Champions League flop, because this man represented the Barca chief’s last hope of signing anyone close to being a Galactico.
The ‘Ibracadabra’ deal, or the “100 million euro deal” according to Mourinho, the deal which sees Inter get a 25-30 goal per season striker in Samuel Eto’o, a player Barca beat them too last summer in Alexander Hleb and cash in the region of 50 million euros, is hardly ‘reasonable’. Frankly, it reeks of Laporta’s need to match Real Madrid, and in particular Florentino Perez, when it comes to big, headline stealing deals. His ego has got the better of him.
Perez may have paid enormous fees for Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo – but both players were needed to remedy serious squad deficiencies. In reality, Barcelona don’t need Zlatan. How will he make them a better team? He may possess impressive technical skills, but he certainly doesn’t stand out when compared to Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. Ditto for his skills in dead ball situations. At Inter he was a match winner, at Barca he’s just another player. The one thing you can say the Swede will bring with him is height – he will finally provide Pep’s team with an aerial option in attack. An expensive option.
What Barca need is an out and out goal scorer. An in the box predator. Eto’o but not Eto’o. Keirrison fits this description, but he’s not ready. ‘Ibra’ is not in this mould. He is closer to what Thierry Henry was when he arrived from Arsenal two seasons ago, and his first season was a disaster. The Barca style of football almost ruined him. With the amount of money Laporta is prepared to spend on ‘Ibra’, one has to wonder, why not Kun Aguero?
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic is presented at the Camp Nou next week, presumably in the number 9 shirt, he will no doubt make a speech thanking Joan Laporta, Barcelona and Internazionale Milano for making his ‘dream’ move a reality. There’s one more man the Swede shouldn’t forget to thank, a man who has had as big a say in his transfer has anyone – Florentino Perez.