Let’s face it: Zlatan Ibrahimovic shouldn’t have been red carded


As I watched the replay of Tuesday’s Valencia-Paris Saint-Germain match (because I hit Celtic-Juve first), I was surprised to hear relatively little debate about Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s red card. The PSG star saw straight red and earned the corresponding suspension after this stoppage time challenge:

The two arguments on this:

Ibrahimovic went over the top of the ball, making this a reckless, unnecessary challenge. He made full contact in a way that could have hurt Andres Guardado, therefore making it dangerous. While that may not be a red card every time, referee Paolo Tagliabento was within his rights to show Ibra red.

If that argument sounds dispassionate, it’s because I’m not buying it. This is just Ibrahimovic stepping on somebody’s foot, and while it’s conceivable the game could evolve to the point where this type of cynical foul would be an automatic red, dismissing Ibrahimovic is disproportionate. We just don’t see red cards for that type of foul. There’s no reason for Ibrahimovic, in the moments leading into that action, to believe he’d see red for what he’d decided to do. For Tagliabento to dismiss him for it is unjust.

Within the wiggle room referees get to interpret dangerous plays, Tagliabento’s entitled to his interpretation. It’s not outright wrong, and it’s probably not worth making a big deal about. Even if he is wrong, Tagliabento is entitled to occasional mistakes. Unless this is type of decision is a pattern from the Italian official, it’s better to just chalk it up to the game’s natural variance. Just bad “luck” for Ibra.

Though you could argue Ibrahimovic’s play was dangerous because it could have broken some toes, that interpretation of danger (potential harm) is problematic. There are a number of more common, more dangerous plays that are allowed to transpire through the course of a game – plays that would never draw a red card. Almost any time a player goes to ground, he’s exposing his opponent to more injury than Guardado was exposed to. Then a player is second in the air to contest a header, he’s risks concussions for both himself and this adversary. Even when a goalkeeper goes to punch a ball, he often puts other players at risk with the follow through or his jump.

In each of those situations, players commit to “dangerous” actions because they know they’re allowed to. Game in, game out they play by a set of standards enforced by the officiating community, standards to which they’ve adapted their game. They know what will and won’t bring red cards, and they act accordingly.

Going into today’s match, the game’s conventions allowed for what Ibrahimovic did. At least, they didn’t call for Ibrahimovic to be dismissed for that challenge. At some point before Tagliabento’s whistle, that changed. And now Ibrahimovic will miss the return leg.

Here’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic being the most entertaining player in the world. Again.

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This isn’t close to being the best goal he’s scored this year. It’s just the best goal he’s scored this winter, which is only one day old.

Ellie Arroway has no words.

Of course, here is the actual goal:

Granted, it’s the only goal he’s scored this winter, but with Ibrahimovic, you never know when a try like the first will go in. As was pointed out when he scored against England, the audacity of the attempt alone is to be admired.

Even as we become increasingly used to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s special effects, it’s impossible to grow tired of them. And it’s impossible to be sanguine about somebody who can Nigel de Jong a goalkeeper one week only to overshadow it with headlines of “Ibrahimovic completes four-goal day with 30-yard bicycle kick.”

Just think about the insanity of that headline. It’s practically passive. The bicycle kick is overshadowing a four-goal day. Nobody does that.

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He may merely be one of the best players in the world, but at this point, there’s little doubt Ibrahimovic is the most entertaining. From the litany of chances he sets up for his teammates, to his dominance of Paris Saint-Germain’s attack, to an 18-goal haul that has turned Ligue 1‘s goal scoring race into Serie A, Ibrahimovic has made PSG (and by extension, France) into must see soccer TV.

It’s part of the reason you don’t hear more complaints from France about PSG’s open wallet. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulus has articulated this best, but there is a feeling from other clubs that the Parisians are capable of lifting the whole league. Teams like Lyon and Marseille just have to figure out new ways to keep up as PSG, thanks to acquisitions like Ibrahimovic’s, raise the profile of the entire circuit.

Just consider how often you’re heard about PSG since Ibrahimovic moved from Milan. Thanks to “Ibra,” PSG is a constant feature on this blog. Granted, we did cover France last year, but the coverage has been amped up. Last week, there was both preview and post-match coverage of PSG-Lyon. If Ibrahimovic wasn’t involved, the coverage may have looked more like this morning’s Arsenal analysis.

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Ibrahimovic is the most entertaining player in the world. It’s not even close, and given his goal against England came too late to qualify for this year’s Puskas Award, I propose we create an award, nominate one player, and throw a huge party so we can listen to Zlatan Ibrahimovic talk about how is by far the most entertaining player on the planet.

Because after yesterday’s almost-goal, I’m willing to listen. To all his ideas. Forever.

Oh: PSG went on to beat Brest 3-0, they have a five-match winning streak, and Carlo Ancelotti’s probably not going to be fired.

Suspension over, Zlatan Ibrahimovic tears apart Troyes

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic had missed the last two league matches for Paris Saint-Germain, suspended after inadvertently karate kicking an opposing goalkeeper (Ibrahimovic’s world: Where martial arts just happen). During that time, PSG took one point from two, embarrassingly losing at home last week despite their opponents playing with only nine men.

On Saturday, Ibrahimovic returned in a big way, leading PSG to a 4-0 win over Troyes in which he engineered all of the goals:

  • In the 17th minute, Ibrahimovic worked the ball along the right byline before putting a pass into a crowded six-yard box. The fell to Maxwell who punched home his second goal of the season.
  • In the 63rd minute, ‘Ibra’ carried a ball from the center line to just outside the Troyes penalty area before poking a ball past the defense for Blaise Matuidi, who finished high into the right of goal to make it 2-0.
  • In the 70th minute, and almost identically setup goal saw Ibrahimovic on the end of a Nene pass, Zlatan finishing with his left into the upper 90 to make it 3-0.
  • And in the 89th minute, Ibrahimovic swept home a goal with his right after Ezequiel Lavezzi did the dirty work ahead of a cross.

Ibra is up to 12 goals and five assists in Ligue 1. Add in his Champions League performance (where he’s already accumulated a four-assist game) and Zlatan has 14 goals and 10 assists this season.

As nice as Radamal Falcao and Edinson Cavani are, I think we know the answer to this question.

Unfortunately for PSG, Zlatan’s been the only part of their attack that’s worked. He’s been involved in 17 of their 23 league goals. Only two goals scored while Ibrahimovic has actually been on the field have not been either setup or scored by him.

If he continues accruing numbers at this rate and plays all of PSG’s remaining Ligue 1 games, he’ll finish the French season with 38 goals and 16 assists.

And if the numbers aren’t sufficiently impressive, here’s Ibrahimovic’s first Saturday goal:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh1zQ7mB04Q]