Former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic deserves to be recognised as the Premier League ‘Player of the Season’ following a sensational opening campaign at Manchester United.
The Swede, who arrived on a free over the summer, has netted 28 goals in all competitions under Jose Mourinho this season.
Zlatan’s crowning moment so far arrived in the form of a late winner in the League Cup final over Southampton, which saw the 35-year-old pick up the 32nd trophy of his career.
And Souness, speaking on Sky Sports, noted that Ibrahimovic deserved to be handed the ‘Player of the Season’ award in May.
“I said at the start of the season that Zlatan had to play well, had to be the main man for United and then United would have a good season as I thought they would struggle to get goals – and that is how it has turned out,” he said.
“I would make him my player of the season simply because he is 35 years old. He has single-handedly kept them in lots of competitions.
“I love his attitude because he gives a calming effect to the lesser lights – ‘Do not worry, Zlatan’s here’ – and he has single-handedly dragged the club into a healthy position, and they have won one trophy.
“I would imagine in the dressing room he is fabulous, a manager’s dream. I love someone who can back up what he says and he can certainly do that, so he is my player of the year.”
Having Zlatan at the masthead of attack delivers far more than just goals; it invokes a sense of identity. Ibrahimovic is one of the few players in world football capable of shaping a stadium’s entire atmosphere through his own demeanour.
The Stadium of Light last weekend, for example, dramatically changed once the Swede fired United into the lead: it was more than an opening goal; it was an illustration of the sheer gulf in class between the two side, something only exacerbated by the Swede’s continued torment of Sunderland’s back four as the game went on.
And Souness, on this occasion, is right: there may have been more impactful players this season – N’Golo Kante serves as one possible example – but the fact that a 35-year-old came from France and, within a few months, outscored every other player in England (in all competitions) is something that cannot be ignored.