Manchester United have decided not to offer last seasons summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic a new contract and he has now been released by the club.
With Zlatan's age and the serious nature of his current knee ligament injury, it is to no surprise to see the decision made, but it is one that means the league is losing a box office attraction.
Last summer, many predictions were that the big name forward would find the Premier League too tough at his age and even some suggested he may have a battle just to stay first choice. Instead he was the clear top attacker in the United side up to his season ending injury in April.
Ibrahimovic made 46 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring 28 goals including the winner in both the Community Shield and League Cup final.
I think most Manchester United fans enjoyed the brief time with the big Swede and wonder how successful he and the club could have been had he moved to them earlier in his career. His flair and at times extreme self-confidence/arrogance made him a fans favourite and his off the field professional drive rubbed off on some of the squad’s younger players. He also offered manager Jose Mourinho a dressing room leader and a personality so big he could control that dressing room with Jose not about.
For United it will leave a big hole to fill. We saw signs from Marcus Rashford of improvement, but at this stage of his career he remains inconsistent although on his day a match winner. Anthony Martial meanwhile has failed to follow up a promising first season and has plenty to prove to his manager in 2017/18. It’s hard to see the club seriously competing for the title without investing back in that area of the squad and we can expect at least one big name attacking player to arrive.
Antoine Griezmann has ruled out a move, Harry Kane is out of reach and Romelu Lukaku looks to be heading back to Chelsea - could you really see Jose buying him back anyway?
The tabloids will have you believe the front runners are Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid and Andrea Belotti from Torino with either or both rumored to be coming to the club.
Both are excellent talents but with question marks hanging over them. Morata produces great statistics but clubs continue to prefer alternative forwards over him. Belotti meanwhile looks to have the perfect style for the Premier League and the counter attacking style of Jose, but has just one good season behind him.
What both have is the style of forward Jose Mourinho likes. Hardworking, strong on the ball and in the air, able to bring others into play. Jose believes a forward is about more than just goals and while neither may get the fans juices flowing like Griezmann/Zlatan etc they are the type of no9 who likely excites the manager.
Both are young and could potentially blossom if given a regular 1st team role and the backing of the manager. Having said all of that, come next spring it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rashford and/or Martial take up that challenge of competition and find themselves are the preferred starters ahead of whomever is purchased. Competition is good in the real world but a problem for us fantasy managers!
In the meantime while he rebuilds from his injury Zlatan will continue the process as Manchester United. Perhaps after one fun season he will likely look at the now traditional end of career path in the MLS.
With 17 goals in 27 league games did Zlatan match your fantasy football expectations in the 2016/17 season
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