Carlo Ancelotti looks all set to step into the Everton dugout in what is a landmark managerial appoint, and the Italian reportedly has his eyes set on a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic as one of his first signings.
Ask any Evertonian who would be their next manager even as recently as a few weeks ago and you’d be hard-pressed to find even one who would have suggested the three-time Champions League winner; you’d probably struggle even more to find someone predicted a move for Ibrahimovic.
But the Toffees are a club desperately searching for their identity and after a number of failed “risk appointments” and overspending on, being honest, distinctly average players, some statement signings might just be what the club needs to push on.
Everton chasing Ibrahimovic? Five things to know…
- According to the Telegraph, Ibrahimovic would be open to joining Everton if Ancelotti was appointed.
- The Sweden international has been a free agent since leaving MLS side LA Galaxy in November.
- Ibrahimovic previously worked with Ancelotti at PSG, where he won nine major trophies.
- Key stat: Ibrahimovic has scored 474 goals in 788 career club appearances.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic transfer odds*: Everton (10/11), AC Milan (9/4), Napoli (7/2), Bologna (10/1).
*Zlatan Ibrahimovic Next Club odds with William Hill. 18+ only. For more information go to BeGambleAware.org
The main questions Everton must ask are: can Ibrahimovic still cut it in the Premier League? And is he the right fit for their squad?
Let’s take a look.
Can Ibrahimovic still cut it?
If Everton are looking for a striker to run the channels, get in behind the opposition and put a shift in as part of a high-press system, Ibrahimovic is not the man for them. The former Man Utd striker has never been the most mobile when it comes to covering ground and at 38, that situation will only deteriorate from here.
Last season in MLS, Ibrahimovic won possession in the final third just 13 times, while his heatmap illustrates just how much prefers to remain up front, making a nuisance of himself to centre-backs, rather than getting involved in build-up play or the defensive side of the game.
However, what he lacks in mobility is more than made up for in brute strength and ruthlessness in front of goal. Ibrahimovic scored an incredible 31 goals during 2019, ranked second in MLS for aerial duels won (166) and committed the sixth-highest number of fouls (56).
Take one look at Ibrahimovic and you see a player still in peak physical condition, totally committed to staying on top of his game and prolonging his game for as much time as possible.
His strike rate of 53 goals in 58 games for the Galaxy should be enough to strike fear into any defender, while his most recent club before that was Manchester United, where he netted 17 goals in 33 Premier League games; his performance only dropped off there due to injury.
Still don’t believe he can cut it in the Premier League at 38? Take it from the man himself.
“I could play easy in the Premier League, so if United needs me, I’m here,” he said back in August amid reports linking him with a return to Old Trafford.
Where would Ibrahimovic fit in at Everton?
Stylistically, Ibrahimovic would actually be a brilliant fit for this current Everton side.
The Toffees have been defined by their crossing habit throughout 2019/20 so far and despite the fact Ancelotti would much prefer to play a more possession-based, progressive style, the Italian would still look to get crosses into the box via Everton’s talented full-backs.
Everton currently rank fifth in the Premier League for open play crosses attempted (266), third for aerial duels won (385) and second only behind Liverpool (10) in terms of headed goals (eight). In Lucas Digne, Djibril Sidibe and Seamus Coleman, they have some of the most exciting attacking full-backs in the English top flight, each easily capable of laying it right onto Ibrahimovic’s head — the same can be said for the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi.
Should Ibrahimovic and Ancelotti join forces at Goodison Park, expect Everton to remain in the same 4-4-2 shape they’ve adopted under interim manager Duncan Ferguson — but with a few personnel changes.
Ibrahimovic would obviously start up front, and Ancelotti would see this is a great opportunity to get struggling youngster Moise Kean some valuable minutes under his belt, alongside one of the most iconic strikers ever to play the game.
The 19-year-old Italian is yet to score for Everton but has an obvious abundance of talent and clearly needs an arm around his shoulder. At Juventus, Kean had that in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo; Ibrahimovic could be just the role model he’s looking for next, while his aerial ability could form a fantastic, old-fashioned strength-power and speed-skill partnership.
Taking into their current long-term injuries in the middle of the park, Sigurdsson and Tom Davies are likely to be the first central midfield pairing Ibrahimovic will line up in front of. This again could be beneficial to the former Sweden international as although similarly lacking in mobility, Sigurdsson ability to pick a pass and deliver a dead ball are absolutely second to none. There are few players around who could provide a better cross for Ibrahimovic to power home.
At full-back, Digne and Sidibe’s attacking qualities have already been mentioned, while Leighton Baines showed against Leicester City recently that he still has a wand of a left foot, should he need to deputise down that flank once again. Either way, Ibrahimovic will have no shortage of service.
Winners and losers if Ibrahimovic joins Everton:
- Winner – Moise Kean: As mentioned, Kean is in need of a guiding hand and some inspiration if he is to save his Everton career and keep on the path of his own aspirations. Ibrahimovic sets incredibly high standards for his teammates and there a few better to show Kean the tricks of the trade to turn him into that elite striker we all know he can be.
- Loser – Dominic Calvert-Lewin: While Kean could quite possibly thrive alongside Ibrahimovic, that would almost certainly spell a lengthy amount of time on the bench for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The former Sheffield United youngster works harder than most strikers in the Premier League and can be a real pest, but falls down drastically in front of goal and with his first touch. A thriving Ibrahimovic-Kean dynamic could hamper his development.
- Winner – Everton’s full-backs: Digne is one of the best crossers of the ball in the Premier League among full-backs, while Sidibe has already shown he can keep pace with his compatriot on the right. Behind them, Baines and Coleman’s quality has been there for all to see for a number of years now. Digne especially will be licking his lips at the prospect of having someone of Ibrahimovic’s stature to aim at in the box.
- Loser – AC Milan: The Rossoneri are second-favourites to sign Ibrahimovic and, my word, they need him. Only four teams have scored fewer goals than AC Milan (16) in Serie A this season while the seven-time European champions don’t have a single player on their books with more than four league goals to his name. Ibrahimovic represents a quick, familiar fix to that problem while they find more long-term solutions. That won’t be the case, of course, if he pitches up on Merseyside.