Competition from Edinson Cavani Pushes Zlatan Ibrahimovic Towards His Best
Edinson Cavani’s move to from Napoli to Paris St. Germain was one of the surprise moves of last summer’s transfer window. The Parisians, after all, already had a world-class striker in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Having the two of them in the same side seemed almost like trying to cram two lead guitarists into the same group. After all, you can’t have a band with both Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page can you?
But as it turns out, competition from Cavani seems to have inspired Ibrahimovic to discover what’s arguably been the best form of his career.
The two goals that everyone was talking about recently were both scored by PSG in their Ligue 1 outing against Bastia. The first came in the 10th minute in the form of an acrobatic scorpion kick by Ibra, who backheeled the ball in over his head from inside the box. The Swede would go on to score again three minutes later. But his second goal was not the other one people were talking about.
That goal came just pass the hour mark, after Cavani had come on as a sub for the former Milan striker. The Uruguayan burst through a pack of defenders, danced down the touchline around Bastia’s keeper and fired a ball through two other defenders into the back of the net from an angle that was audacious to say the least.
Ibrahimovic rose to his feet to applaud it at the time. Although later, when Cavani scored a second to equal the Swede’s tally for the day, Ibra’s face betrayed something that whatever it was, was definitely not good-natured, brotherly support for one’s teammate.
Ibra again staked his claim to maintain his starting spot on Wednesday with an inspired four-goal performance against Anderlecht in the UEFA Champions League. Three out of his four goals were in the classic striker mode. Artful yes, but closed from inside the box, the product of well-timed runs and well-placed balls from teammates like Gregory van Der Wiel. But with his third goal, Ibrahimovic outdid himself yet again.
Pouncing on a loose clearance about 35 yards out, the PSG man fired an unstoppable, curling rocket of a shot to the near corner that was apparently clocked at 70 mph. ESPN commentator and former Liverpool player Steve Nicol called it “the goal of the decade.”
Cavani, introduced at the 52nd minute went on to score himself. But it seemed rather pedestrian by comparison. It was Ibra who put in the day’s true command performance. His four-goal tally has elevated him to a rarified bracket of only ten other players to have scored four in a single UCL encounter.
Ibrahimovic’s form of late has made it difficult not to compare him to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Indeed, on current form, it’d be hard to argue against him being the best player in the world at the moment. If the Sweden striker can keep it up throughout the season and take it into next summer’s World Cup (at the expense of Ronaldo) this may be his best chance to thrust himself into contention for the Ballon d’Or.
A deep run into this season’s Champions League would certainly be a good place to start. The question is, can an Ibrahimovic vs. Cavani rivalry fire PSG all the way to a Champions League final? Maybe. Although many feel it’s still a bit early in terms of the French club actually winning the competition at this point.
But with Ibrahimovic having just re-upped his contract, it’s entirely feasible that PSG may indeed prove to he the club where the serial Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1, and Eredivisie Cup Winner finally gets his hands on the one trophy that’s managed to elude him.
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, Ligue Un games are shown exclusively on beIN SPORT, beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORT, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.. Visit our Ligue Un TV schedule and Ligue Un page.