Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry: Barcelona's Troubled Stars
At first, it seemed like the dream move of the summer transfer window.
Italy's dominant creative striker headed off to join Pep Guardiola's new dream team in the Catalan capitol. Upon arriving, Ibra started off the season in fine form, delivering enough goals and assists, prompting CNN commentator Alexi Lalas to at one point remark that the Swedish striker was in better form than Lionel Messi.
And indeed, he may well have been at that moment.
But then came the winter break. Since returning from it, Ibra seems to have fallen into a goal drought that he has yet to fully emerge from.
Certainly, there have been a few bright spots here and there: goals against Stuttgart and Arsenal in the Champions League, some good assists, and highly effective trickery on the ball in La Liga.
Yet watching Ibrahimovic with Barcelona over these last few months, it's been hard not to feel as if the sparkling form he displayed last season for Inter, and earlier this season for Barca, has largely deserted him.
Messi has reestablished himself as Barca's unquestionable dominant force. And homegrown youth system players like Bojan, Pedro, and Sergio Busquets have also established themselves as dependable goal sources.
Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic, and fellow star Thierry Henry, seem to find themselves continually out of sorts.
Ibra is in the starting lineup more often than not, but he usually finds himself being subbed out after missing opportunities you feel the 2009 model Ibra would have driven home.
Henry starts most games on the bench. If he plays at all, he is subbed in late and seems to struggle to make an impact on the game.
It's hard to get your head around the idea that this is the same Henry who was the spearhead of last year's insurmountable Barcelona attack.
That Henry's best years are behind him is a fact that few would dispute.
Ibrahimovic, however, is ostensibly in his prime. His expensive transfer from Inter Milan was intended to be a step up the ladder into a brilliant new phase of his career.
Today, watching Ibra sitting on the sidelines after being subbed out as Bojan scored against Tenerife, the man actually seemed perplexed. As if he is as unsure as anyone else as to why the Midas touch that earned him the nickname "Ibracadabra" has deserted him.
However, unlike Henry, who seemed happy that Bojan had scored for the team, Ibra looked disconcerted by it. As if he felt it should have been him doing the scoring.
Perhaps in a lineup with quick, mobile teamplayers like Messi, Bojan, and Pedro, the Swedish striker needs to subvert his ego and play more for the club—not Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Whether or not he will be able to do so, remains to be seen.
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