I suppose today is the day we're supposed to slobber all over Zlatan Ibrahimovic and talk about why he's why we love the sport and doesn't he demonstrate why football is grand?
To be sure, that fourth goal was outrageous. But then again, I don't spend a lot of time extolling a 500-foot home run in spring training or a amazing catch in an NFL preseason game in August. And that's all yesterday really was.
But that's the thing about Zlatan, he's just as capable of doing that in a real game. Just as he's capable of single-handedly bouncing his team out of the Champions League, as we watched him do with Inter at least a couple times as he sent scud after scud into increasingly terrified fans behind whatever goal he claimed to be aiming at. He's also capable of that "donkey" kick against Denmark in Euro 2004. Or he's capable of basically glaring at his teammates for 90 minutes.
We don't know which teammate he'll attempt to kick at training. What transfer he'll demand this time. How much better he'll claim to be than anyone else on the planet. Or whether he'll even bother.
It seems hard to remember that he once cost Barca 40 million plus Samuel Eto'o. It could be argued that's a 100 million pound transfer. It's hard to remember that doing so probably cost Barca the chance at three Champions League titles in a row and a pretty much unheard of four in six. He was punted off a year later, in what has to be one of the least talked about worst transfers ever.
He's essentially what you'd cast in a movie about football. If you were to make a football version of "Goon", he would be the star player on whatever team the idiot found himself on. That hair, that stupid facial hair, the attitude. He'd be the one the coach was always trying to motivate.
Maybe it's just the fact that I can't believe he's actually real that I've never totally warmed up to him. But I have to say I'm glad he's around. There probably won't be anyone else like him ever again.
-And of course, that performance overshadowed our captain's 100th cap. 100 caps is one of those things where we've kind of made it up that it's that much more important than 99 or 101 caps. But you forget that Gerrard has been serving his national team for 12 years. From that plucky sub appearance against Germany during a woeful Euro 2000 when he clattered teammate Didi Hamaan, to his first start under Sven at Anfield against Finland where he ran the show. It was followed by a period where he just couldn't stay healthy, even after crashing in that goal against Germany in Munich. He had to miss World Cup 2002, and you wonder where England might have gone if he could have stayed fit. At least I doubt Sol Campbell would have been the main ball-distributor at the end of that Brazil match had Stevie been around.
His Euro 2004 was marred by having to be sub-servant to the useful Frank Lampard phase and those first batch of Chelsea rumors. World Cup 2006 was muddied by being sub-servant to the not useful Frank Lampard phase, where Gerrard scored with his only two shots of the tournament and Lampard didn't with his 256. He put in a yeoman's performance against Portugal before England bowed out, but it was mostly in a defensive effort as injuries, Sven, and everything else once again limited England. And only a little more than a month after burying his penalty against West Ham in the FA Cup Final, he missed against Portugal.
There was no Euro 2008. His hero ways helping to doom Steve McClaren's.....what-have-ya. They were also on full display as he led a mock up of an England side into South Africa, and then tried to beat Germany all by himself. It felt like he finally got it right in Ukraine this past summer, the proper balance of captain, work for the team, and individual brilliance. But it was all for a Hodgson side, and they have their limits don't they?
Like Zlatan, Gerrard's England career has a huge feel of what might have been. It's been long, it's been impressive and woeful at times. It's kind of been everything, except equipped with a medal. That's too bad. But then, he didn't have a lot of help there either.