Friday, 28 September 2012

Can Zlatan Ibrahimovic match Ligue 1's great goal getters

Rarely has a blog post gone by this season without me mentioning Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swedish striker is kind of hard to ignore. His yearly salary may be higher than the GDP of a small African country, but so far he has done about as much as he can to offer value for money for Paris Saint-Germain’s massive outlay.

Ibra’s double in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Bastia took his tally for the season to seven goals in five Ligue 1 outings, and he also got up and running in the Champions League with a penalty in the victory over Dynamo Kiev. It’s a tally which has seen him take an early lead in the race for the Ligue 1 golden boot – his nearest challenger at present is Toulouse striker Wissam Ben-Yedder with four – and begs the question how many goals he’s capable of scoring.

After all, this is a man who has consistently found the net in Italy (he got 28 goals last year, his most prolific season to date) and scored 16 in 23 league starts in Spain for Barcelona, both countries where defenders are generally superior to those found in France.

As we will see, the record in Ligue 1 is 44 goals in a season, and legendary Marseille striker Jean-Pierre Papin believes that this could be out of reach for Zlatan.

“It is impossible to say [how many goals Ibra will score],” said Papin, showing the kind of opinionated punditry which made him a natural choice for new television channel BeIn sport.

“In a season, there will inevitably be a few games without a goal, and injuries or suspensions (...) I think he will exceed my 30 goals, but the 44 of Skoblar, it will be complicated. But still, he’s a guy who impresses me.

“I do not envy him because I had other qualities than him. But he is a powerful and tough guy. And it is rare to see a player of his size have such ease in front of goal. It is this combination of power and finesse that I like.”

So who does Zlatan have to beat if he is to become a record-breaker? Papin, who hit 30 goals in the 1989/90 season, doesn’t even make the top five of Ligue 1 goal-getters:

Gunnar Anderson – 35 goals for Marseille, 1952/53 & Serge Masnaghetti – 35 goals for for Valenciennes, 1962/63: First target for Zlatan is the 35-goal barrier, which was reached by two players in the 1950s and 60s. Anderson was a Swedish striker who served OM with distinction for eight seasons, though his medal haul was restricted to a Coupe de France win in 1954. He remained in the South of France after his retirement, but died of a heart attack at the age of 41 while on his way to a match at the Stade Velodrome.

Masnaghetti was a one-club man, whose scoring record for Valenciennes was better than a goal every two games. Though 62/63 was his best season, he went on to record a seven-minute hat-trick, the fastest ever in Ligue 1 at the time, in a match against Nice in 1966.

Philippe Gondet – 36 goals for Nantes, 1965/66: “Gondet, ton but!” – literally “Gondet, your goal!” - rang out around the Stade Malakoff on 36 occasions in the 65/66 season; I’m sure it’s a lot more catchy in French than it is in English. Philippe Gondet’s performances that year drew comparisons with the great Hungarian and, er, English, forwards of the time, and earned him a spot in the France squad for the 1966 World Cup. His goals were a key factor as Nantes bagged the second of successive Championship wins, and how the Canaries, now languishing in Ligue 2, would love to unearth another striker of his quality. 

Carlos Bianchi – 37 goals for Paris Saint-Germain, 1977/78: Ibra will be looking to join an illustrious list of former PSG players who have picked up the golden boot: the mighty Pauleta won it twice in succession, while Nene shared the prize with Olivier Giroud last season. But none of them came close to matching the exploits of Carlos Bianchi, who bulged the onion bag 37 times during the 77/78 campaign. It was a typically mediocre season for Les Rouges-et-Bleu, who finished 11th in the table, but Bianchi didn’t let that stop him in his quest for goals. El Virrey (the Viceroy) had picked up the golden boot on three occasions during his time with Stade de Reims, and would do again in 78/79 for PSG with a relatively modest 27. Despite his goal-scoring exploits, Bianchi is perhaps best known for his managerial career, which saw him become the winning-est coach Argentinean football has ever seen. Don’t say too much about his one season in charge of Paris FC though.

Josip Skoblar – 44 goals for Marseille, 1970/71: Known as the Dalmatian Eagle (a quite scary mixture of animals I’m sure you’ll agree) or simply Monsieur Goal, Yugoslav forward Skoblar first caught the eye at Marseille when he banged in 13 goals in 15 games while on loan from German club Hannover in 1966/67. Arriving permanently in 1969, he bagged an eye-watering 138 goals in 159 games for OM, finishing as Ligue 1’s top scorer on three occasions. The first of these, 1970/71, was his best effort, and remains the target for Zlatan to beat, and helped his side to the title. After retiring he enjoyed an eclectic managerial career taking in France, Spain, Croatia and, er, Lebanon amongst others, and according to Wikipedia he now does some scouting for Marseille.


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