The Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said yesterday that Steven Gerrard should have left Liverpool to broaden his horizons at a "big international club", ahead of tonight's friendly between their two nations.
The well-travelled Ibrahimovic was lavish in his praise of Gerrard, who he said was not like the archetypal English player, but asked why he had not tested himself abroad. "Of course Liverpool is a big club but I would like to see Steven in a big international club," Ibrahimovic said. "It is very exciting when someone goes abroad and shows who he is in another competition. For me, a fantastic player can make a difference in every country wherever he plays and I'm pretty sure that Steven will do that.
"I think [he has a] big heart, always fighting, aggressive. Steven Gerrard is more international, [has] more skills than a normal player. England is used to playing 4-4-2 and the big teams in the Premier League play 4-3-3 with a lot of foreign players. English players are big and strong. But it is developing like every other competition and every other country. It is a fantastic team with fantastic players."
The Sweden coach, Erik Hamren, had to admit yesterday that he had not heard of England's newest squad member, the Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha. "Wilfried Zaha? I know a '[Louis] Saha' but I don't know if it's the right one," Hamren said
"No, I don't know about him. Sometimes you get carried away [about players]. But that's also something that, in sport, we need those heroes or those stars. Sometimes you make a star too early. It's better to make him a star when he is a star in world football. I hope he's not a star tomorrow but in the future."
Hamren said that he was one of a generation of Swedish coaches who was influenced by Roy Hodgson, a major figure in Swedish football who won seven league titles with Halmstads and Malmo between 1976 and 1989.
Hamren said: "He [Hodgson] has a good reputation here. I really like him as a coach and as a person. He's someone I've always spoken to. I was a young coach when I first met him and he gave me his knowledge and experience. He has been really good for Swedish football, acclaimed by all our coaches who have learned a lot from him. There's big respect for him."
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