With the upcoming opening round of Champions League fixtures imminent, perhaps the most mouth watering tie will see Inter Milan face the current Champions Barcelona. An intriguing contest on so many levels, not least to assess how the contrasting styles of both teams will fare, nor how the cross Mourinho seems to carry from his days with Chelsea will manifest itself when it comes to facing the Catalans once again in European Competition.
Most of all however all eyes will be on the two players that swapped clubs over the summer, namely Samuel Eto’o (now of Inter) and Ibrahimovic (now of Barcelona). Neither player has shied away from voicing their excitement at the prospect of getting one over their former employer in recent interviews, and this outspoken and controversial mantle that follows both players had a significant influence on why the two we moved on respectively.
I don’t think it can be argued that from a purely business perspective Inter Milan, and more poignantly its owner Massimo Morratti, will be laughing all the way to the bank. Inter received 40 million Euro’s as well as Eto’o in exchange for Ibra and after what must seem like an age to Morratti of putting his hand in his pocket to fund his managers’ demands, he must feel like he has finally won one!
There are numerous reasons for this transfer anomaly from both sides and ultimately all parties got what they wanted (If you take the 40 million Euros’ out of the equation from a Barcelona Perspective I’m sure). The details of these aforementioned motivations have been well lamented at this point, but now both players have moved and fate has had its hand in ensuring they meet so soon in the campaign which will gain the footballing upper hand?
Ibrahimovic has long been hailed as one of the best players in the world. He is undoubtedly a phenomenal talent and as much of an enigma as any current player. He has come under scrutiny not only for his perceived arrogance but also his apparent inability to deliver the goods on the biggest stage.
For his clubs in Italy over the last 5 seasons Ibra has lead both Inter and Juventus to the league title. He has until recently perhaps not scored as many goals as someone who rates himself so highly should have, but when he does score they are more often than not memorable.
Zlatan’s determination to move to Spain was certainly not motivated by money, as he was already one of the highest paid players in the world at Inter, but he let the world know his feeling that he would never win the Champions League and be recognised as a legitimate contender for the Ballon d’or playing for the Milan side.
On the other hand Eto’o had been entertaining a move away from Barca for at least two seasons before his eventual switch to Inter. During his time in Spain he had been the prong of the much eulogised Barcelona attack and proved a veritable goal machine both domestically and in Europe for his club. None the less he too felt unloved by his then employers and having won a historic treble following Barcelona’s defeat of Manchester United in Rome he wanted out.
Both players scored for their new clubs at the weekend, Eto’o in particular scoring with a fantastic strike. The stage is set for an enthralling duel as to which of the two egos will triumph. It could be argued that Eto’o has nothing to prove at this level having already won the trophy on more than one occasion, where as mentioned previously Ibrahimovic has yet to convince the world that he is the genuine article he professes to be and his talent should permit.
Eto’o will none the less want to show Barcaleona that he deserved a larger share of the credit for the clubs success during his time there than perhaps he received, with Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Guardiola all considered more pivotal an influence then the Cameroonian. On the back of last season’s performances Barcelona will go into this contest as favourites, meaning on paper at least Zlatan has the better supporting cast to help him make his point.
Both players have very contrasting styles and it may be the team that has adapted to their new striker best that sees the best return. I for one can’t wait to see what promises to be a great contest. One thing is for sure, with so many characters in the mix, whether the action comes from on or off the pitch there will be plenty to talk about come Thursday.