Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic Finally Stepping His Game Up?

Adi-Oula SebastianCorrespondent IISeptember 30, 2009

MALAGA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 26:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) of Barcelona celebrates teammates after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Malaga and Barcelona at La Rosaleda Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Malaga, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Five for five. That's the number of goals Ibrahimovic has already scored in his first five La Liga games. Even such illustrious names as Romario, Rivaldo, Kluivert nor Eto'o can't boast a record like this. Now the question is—is he finally evolving his game or is it impossible to miss all those chances Xavi and Co. create?

We all know that Ibra's record in the Champions League is...umm BAD. Not only bad—it stinks. I remember when I first heard the announcement that Barcelona bought Ibrahimovic for 44 Mio. Euro + Samuel Eto'o—I was wondering if Guardiola has lost his mind. But judging by his performances so far i am starting to believe that this could be a masterstroke - even though Barcelona overpaid by some 20 Mio.

I am inclined to believe that reason Zlatan's CL record stinks is that he has never played with a team that can match his quality. Now before i am cursed out by angry Inter and Juve fans, let me elaborate why. Inter for all their European ambitions have failed to acquire a true playmaker in the mold of Diego or Fabregas.

Even with the addition of Wesley Sneijder they lack that spark that connects the midfield with the attack. I am still wondering why they didn't go for Rafael Van der Vaart instead. He has something Sneijder lacks—imagination. And that's why I believe Ibra has failed so miserably in the CL over the years. The lack of support from his team. He was forced to be both—playmaker and striker.

Enter FC Barcelona.

From the games we have seen this far we can make a few observations. Zlatan will NEVER have the workrate Samuel Eto'o has. He is still the most lazy player in his squad. BUT he is running more than he used to do at Inter. AND most importantly he isn't the main attacking threat of his team.

While in Italy the opposing teams used to stop Inter by marking him out of the game because Adriano for all his unbelievable talent was elsewhere (with his mind and body) and Balotelli is still raw. If Maicon wasn't around I'd say that Inter would really struggle to win a game. Quite ridiculous isn't it when the most danger comes from either a striker or a right-back?

Now he is playing with some of the world's best and the best player in the form of Lionel Messi. Teams cannot afford just to focus on him anymore and Xavi and Co. create chances in abundance. He is free to do what a striker is supposed to do which is scoring and providing the occasional assist. 

Adding extra dimension

Not only is he scoring, he is really adding that extra dimension Guardiola has talked about. Barcelona are now crossing more into the box and looking sharper from set pieces—something that could be useful against teams that "park the bus" like Chelsea.

Time will tell how much goals he will score but giving the fact that he still is adapting to the way the Blaugrana are playing I'd say 25+ is a reasonable number. If he can't manage to break his CL curse now—NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING can help him.

He has arguably the world's most creative midfield playing behind him that will provide him with an awful lot of chances—if he can't convert a Xavi killer pass into a goal he deserves the tag world's most overrated player.