As, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the games’ greatest ever showmen netted his 500th career goal, we look at some of footballs’ notable egotists and enigmas.
The super Swede reached a half-century in a style that only he could. He contorted his body in his almost trademark martial arts fashion to turn home a hopeful long ball in LA Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with neighbours LAFC.
Zlatan has always talked the talk. He has referred to himself as a king, a lion and a legend frequently throughout his career. But he has always walked the walk as well. A glittering career at some of the greatest clubs in Europe. A goal scoring highlight reel that wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood film. He even averaged more than a goal every two games at the age of 34 in a distinctly average Manchester United team.
But what about some other unique talents who are still playing?
Alexandre Pato – Tianjin Quanjian F.C
Pato started life in his native Brazil for Internacional, making his senior debut in the 06/07 season as the club won the Club World Cup, beating Barcelona 1-0 in the final. In the summer following, Pato made his move to Europe, signing for Italian giants AC Milan. Pato stayed with the Rossoneri for 6 years, scoring 51 goals in 117 games. He was named as European golden boy and the Serie A young player of the year in the 10/11 season. However, he tapered off, and the player that scored that exquisite goal against Barcelona at the Nou Camp was nowhere to be seen.
As many Brazillian players do, Pato opted to return to his home country, signing for Brazillian giants Corinthians. His return was not without controversy, Pato scored on his debut for Corinthians with his first touch. Pato, however, was criticised multiple times by the fans after certain performances where he missed simple chances. In particular when he opted to panenka a spot kick in a Copa do Brasil shootout against Gremio against former Milan teammate; Dida, who read Pato like a book and gathered the penalty gratefully.
Following the mixed emotions of Corinthians, Pato made the switch on loan to Sao Paulo after new coach Mano Menezes decided Pato had no place in the system he wanted to adopt. He went on to score 19 goals for Sao Paulo in a spell that looked to have reignited his spark.
Pato Returns to Europe
The spark wasn’t just catching the eye of the Brazillians. In January 2016, Guus Hiddink took Pato on loan at Chelsea. It took until April for the forward to make his first appearance for the Blues, but he took his chance in vintage Alexandre Pato style, by once again scoring on his debut. He won and scored a penalty in a rampant Chelsea win over Aston Villa. However just one more appearance followed, and Chelsea left that at that, whith Pato returning to Corinthians.
He wasn’t there for long, taking his services back to Europe again, this time for Spanish side Villareal. Where, of course, he scored on his debut. But again, for Pato and the fans of his club it was just a flash in the pan. He scored just one more goal in Spain, his final stop before taking the cash laden road to the Chinese Super League.
Pato’s goalscoring form in China has been superb, but not without glimpses of what made him so frustrating for many fans. A couple of outrageous misses have overshadowed his consistency at his current club.
Still under 30, Pato is far from done. But his time in Europe will always be remembered for what could have been.
Mario Balotelli – OGC Nice
Now managed by Patrick Vieira, Balotelli is a shoe-in to this discussion. Like Pato, super Mario is still under 30. Applying his trade at French outfit Nice, Balotelli has very much become their talisman. He scored 15 times in his first season in France, probably would’ve managed more had he not been dismissed 3 times. The following season he hit the back of the net 18 times, and restricted himself to just one red card, despite being booked 11 times in the league campaign.
There are two types of category that fulfil this list. Players like Pato who shone so bright but stuttered and struggled are one. Then there’s the jokers, the headline makers, where the Italian striker really comes in to his own.
His talent is unquestionable, blessed with explosive pace in his youth, brute strength and exceptional technical ability, Balotelli was a starlet.
Mancini brought him in to the fold at Inter Milan, but after his departure, the reigns were handed to Jose Mourinho. Mourinho and Mario never saw eye to eye, with Balotelli even being suspended from the club after an altercation with Mourinho in 2009.
Balotelli’s Big Break at City?
He signed for Manchester City in the summer of 2010, where he would link up again with Roberto Mancini. Balotelli scored 20 times for Inter, and repeated this for Manchester City.
It was the reports of the strikers’ escapades off the pitch that got people talking. The famous incident of setting fireworks off in his bathroom, or perhaps driving round with thousands of pounds in the passenger seat of his car; just because he could.
His temperament and character inevitably made their appearances on the pitch too, most notably; Balotelli was subbed in a pre-season game against LA Galaxy after attempting a ludicrous spinning back heel finish when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
In January of 2013, Balotelli was shipped back to Milan to join AC Milan in a deal worth around 20 million euros. Mancini relieved Mario of his duties for his own good. He did so claiming that Balotelli acted like a child, but could become a world beater when he returned to Italy.
Balotelli made 13 appearances in that first season at Milan, grabbing himself 12 goals. Super Mario was back in business.
He went on to score a total of 26 goals in 43 games.
Brendan Rodgers Gives Him a Go
In August 2014, Balotelli had some big boots to fill. Brendan Rodgers brought the striker to Anfield, after losing Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Many saw this as Mario’s biggest, and maybe final chance to fulfil his potential. Many touted Rodgers as the ideal manager to get the best out of the unpredictable Italian. Balotelli managed just 4 goals in his time at Liverpool, and was embroiled in further controversy during his time on Merseyside.
He returned to Milan on loan, his final stop before Nice. He struggled, as did the Italian giants themselves. Jurgen Klopp was now Liverpool manager, and had no desire to have Balotelli as part of his team.
Over the past two seasons, Mario has been prolific in France. But his most recent action was to apparently turn up to training overweight after the summer holiday, a rumour that he has addressed himself.
Still capable of moments of incredible skill, is there still time for Balotelli to fulfil his potential?
Ricardo Quaresma – Besiktas
What would one of these lists be without a reference to the fabled Portugese winger? Brought through at Sporting Lisbon alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. As one left for Manchester United and began his entries in to the history books, Quaresma headed to Barcelona, aiming to do the same.
A master of the rabonna, and the undisputed king of the trivela technique. Early in his career and in spells throughout, his talent has looked limitless.
Quaresma’s appearances at Barcelona were limited, he later refused to play for Barcelona unless Frank Rijkaard was replaced as manager.
Quaresma has often struggled to adapt his style of play. He was a liability defensively and often a lone figure out on the pitch. After a successful move to Porto after Barcelona, he transferred to Inter Milan. However, he failed to fit in with the mentality of the team managed by Jose Mourinho. His talent was obvious, his adherence to tactics however, was non-existent. At the end of the Serie A season, Quaresma was named the worst performer in the league. For a man with such an ego, this must’ve hurt.
Quaresma’s Time in the Wilderness
Inter loaned him to Chelsea, a club that seems to have an affinity with these type of players. He struggled to adapt to the Premier League, the higher tempo and tough tackles made his stay in London difficult.
Inter were keen to get rid of him on his return to the club after his loan expired, further signings left Quaresmas’ minutes on the pitch limited. Come the summer he had played just 11 games, and failed to register his name on the scoresheet.
In 2010 Ricardo joined Besiktas for his first spell in Turkey. He started superbly, making the investment the club had made look very worthwhile. But his season was soured after a bust up with team mates and manager Carlos Carvalhal, after he was subbed off at half time during a match. Quaresma was later suspended indefinitely and released 6 months early from his contract.
A brief spell in the UAE at Al-Ahli followed before his return to Porto. Another good spell with the club saw him net double figures for the first time in years.
Another return followed, and leaves him where he is in his journey now. Quaresma returned to Turkey and won back to back titles with Besiktas. His trademark strike reappeared, as he scored a glorious goal as part of a superb display in a 3-1 win.
Quaresma also starred in Portugals Euro 2016 win, and showed some of his magic briefly in the World Cup this year. He still has the ability to win a game on his own, but maybe he’d win more if he could play consistently as part of a team.
Emmanuel Adebayor – Istanbul Basaksehir
It must be said that Turkish football does seem to attract a lot of controversial players who could’ve made this write up. Players such as the previously mentioned Quaresma, and also Samir Nasri and Asamoah Gyan.
Now, big Emmanuel Adebayor. Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, Real Madrid and Monaco have all been blessed with the presence of the Togo target man. But why does he make it in with such illustrious company?
It is often overlooked what a fine goalscorer Adebayor was, particularly given his style of play and ability to bring others in to the game. He scored a lot of goals, most notably at Arsenal.
It would be difficult to deny that Adebayor makes this list primarily for one moment. Adebayor was berated by Arsenal fans in a fixture against Manchester City, they sang songs about his family amongst other provocative chants. Then his moment came, has he rose to nod home a cross from the right hand side. Then he took off, as fast as he could to the other end of the ground to celebrate in front of the thousands of travelling Arsenal fans. It was the most outrageous celebration the Premier League has seen, but it must be said it took some bottle.
After a loan move to Real Madrid, Adebayor furthered his pantomime villain status with Arsenal fans by heading to Tottenham. He netted consistently for Spurs, as he has done since moving to Turkey.
Unlike many others, Adebayor wasn’t a waste of talent, a handful for any defender on his day. It’s his sheer passion, attitude and lack of caring that makes himone of the great enigmas.