Former Republic of Ireland winger Stephen Hunt believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s persona at Manchester United is more akin to that of Roy Keane than Eric Cantona.
The Swede, despite widespread doubt over his age upon his arrival in the summer, has made light work of English football, claiming 26 goals so far this season.
His talismanic influence at No.9 has led to many pundits, including Keane himself, comparing the 35-year-old with the Frenchman.
But Hunt, speaking earlier this week, went against the grain and claimed that the striker’s demeanour and drive was more reminiscent of Keane.
“Don’t be fooled. He is one of the most serious footballers I’ve seen. I’d put him in the Roy Keane category of sheer drive, and lifting standards around him,” he said.
“He is more interested in his team than Cantona was, and making sure his team is winning.
“When Jesse Lingard scored United’s second goal last week, Ibrahimovic gave him a pat on the back and then started bawling and shouting and demanding concentration throughout the team, telling defenders how to defend, and then doing his own defending, leading by example. It was inspirational stuff.”
Perhaps we are wrong to dabble in comparisons with other players when it comes to Zlatan; perhaps the Swede, now with 32 trophies and 418 goals in a career that has spanned 18 years, should exist as a category in its own right – an object of prophetic magnitude that cannot be compromised by other names and theories.
I mean, do we really need to reference other players to gain a better understanding of Ibrahimovic, or has he achieved enough on his own for us – the footballing audience – to simply stand back, take our metaphorical hats off, and give plaudits to one of the greatest goalscorers of all time?