30 April 2010

Defending Judas

By Dr3

"You would use a kiss to betray me?"

I never knew empathy until I started reading the posthumous Barca finger-pointing; all together now, “It’s Ibra’s fault!!!” Zlatan is the “big-game” (Europe) flop we all love to scorn with either chagrin, or derisive bliss. Melodramatic fans and fickle journalists feed each other in some sort of sordid intelligence-eroding orgy ending in faulty conclusions and unimaginative analyses (this is in no way meant to invalidate this article).

But here’s where Judas should be justly judged with what I believe to be the right perspective. Had I spoken to Ibrahimovic in December and told him that: “by May 1st 2010 you will be the subject of disdain”, he would have correctly laughed himself into a coma. Back then there was nobody more sublime and wonderful than “BigIbra”, ask Ray Hudson. He couldn’t do any wrong, and Barca fans started jibing that this is the type of class that their club breathed into players. His chips, flicks, and even assists, started making life post-Sammy, a not-so-tumultuous task. I even heard once that “Eto’o was too selfish, while Ibra brings his teammates into games”. Ibracadabra was stealing hearts at the Nou Camp, while Eto’o was quickly losing the faith of the Nerazzurri faithful. He went so far as to start dismantling the frequently coined “big game choker” label, with his importance in even the CL.

Four months later, Barcelona sit trophy-less and in the hunt for ‘only’ one trophy. While Zlatan faltered after the break, his pint sized wizard-friend hit peak form, and the messiah was truly anointed (Greatest Of All Time). Messi can do no wrong. Instead, “what if’s”, and “why’s”, emerged about Zlatan being responsible for any of their failures; after all he’s supposed to be Eto’o + more. Admittedly the sentiment that Zlatan should provide ‘more’ than Eto’o is justifiable, and a strong case can be made for reversing the swap.

...........What of the greatest player on earth though?

It’s amazing to me that not much is being made of just how pint-sized, the pint-sized man really was against Inter. Maybe it was because he was so invisible people seemed to glare right past him and instead take shots at the 6 foot + Swede.

Make no mistake this is not about slighting Messi as being horrible or overrated or anything of that nature. But (huge BUT), it’s in times of need/desperation, that the classiest, and most gifted player on a team (much less in the world) is supposed to stand up and be counted. Simply put Messi did not even do half-enough, for his team in either of the games against Inter, yet Zlatan is being fingered. When Manchester were outclassed by the little man and his brigade in 2009’s final, no one pointed to Tevez, Rooney, Berbatov or any such supporting cast “big names”. The verdict was unanimous; Cristiano didn’t deliver. Now again I’m not saying that “Zlatan is not working” or “Zlatan flopped against Inter” isn’t valid, but certainly it was Messi who didn’t deliver and NOT “BigIbra”.

Now even further, Judas has a strong case to make that he was in fact the victim of circumstances and not the causative ingredient. Barcelona were afforded neither the time nor space they needed through the center of Inter’s defense. Inter’s back four played deep so as to prevent the space behind for through passes, while the defensive midfielders blanketed the space in front of them; allowing play only just after the half-line, as well as on the flanks. Barca’s crosses were putrid to say the very least, and as mentioned the wizard was incredibly ordinary. Is it any wonder then that the big man received no service? For people looking at Pique’s (marginally offside) goal, as some sort of proof and solace in your resolve that Zlatan was ineffective, let’s keep perspective; Inter finally had a lapse in the 84th minute. Zlatan’s replacement also found a chance which was again due to a lapse at the END OF A GAME.

In me keeping some perspective even in his defense, I can admit to one thing. After being the subject of a high profile exchange and replacing a vital part of a sextuple winning squad, with any loss of ‘gloss’ there was only ever going to be one verdict.

In Zlatan remaining the truest enigma, he has managed to be both the perpetrator and victim in Barcelona’s dwindling season.

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