The Last Word: Ibrahimovic is no sissy – and Carroll is no Cissé, either - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

The Last Word: Ibrahimovic is no sissy – and Carroll is no Cissé, either

Newcastle needed no more than £10m to fit Carroll's No 9 shirt on to Cissé

Big ole critters, the pair of them. In fact, Andy Carroll and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are both so obviously virile that they presumably wear their hair like girls simply to prove that nobody will ever dare call them sissies. But then nor is anyone going to call Carroll a Cissé, never mind an Ibrahimovic.

The fact is that even a shared weakness for the pony-tail seems to emphasise the difference between them. You can picture Ibra, scimitar aloft, riding out of the dust upon a mighty charger, his armour an aureole of hot sun; whereas the former requires only a doeskin loincloth to perfect the look of some grunting Neanderthal.

What they do have in common, of course, is a starring role in the summer transfer window. For never mind all those skittering little picadors; sheer physicality, it seems, is still a prized commodity out there. It's just that while Ibra's many other attributes this week qualified him as the most expensive player in football history – measured, that is, by aggregate fees – poor Carroll needs someone to rescue its most expensive mistake.

In fairness, he does retain one market asset no longer available to Ibra. At 23, he is seven years younger. And it is hardly Carroll's fault that Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli persuaded their employers to pay Newcastle the scandalous sum of £35m for a striker who, even now, has scored only 18 Premier League goals.

To that extent, you feel a degree of pity for Carroll, who palpably has the ability to make a productive nuisance of himself at the right level, in the right system. As it is, however, the lad has been exposed to mockery exceeding even that invited by a first touch, and overall mobility, strongly evocative of an Easter Island monolith strapped to a couple of supermarket trolleys.

It is pointless now to ponder the world-class talents that might have been hired with the Torres money; to note how Newcastle themselves needed no more than £10m to fit Carroll's No 9 shirt on to Papiss Demba Cissé. Dalglish and Comolli have now paid for their profligacy. And Liverpool's owners, still feeling their way, are proving man enough to admit their own misjudgement.

Their new man, Brendan Rodgers, has plainly been quick to decide that if his role model, Pep Guardiola, could not fit a player as exotic as Ibra into the Barcelona system, then he sure as hell isn't going to shoehorn one as antediluvian as Carroll into the version he intends for Liverpool.

True, Rodgers might be no less alarmed by the competence of other Dalglish signings for a high-tempo, pressing game, and the restless exchange of both ball and position. Charlie Adam ended last season like a beached jellyfish; Stewart Downing with fewer league goals and assists than Tim Howard. The one bespoke fit is Luis Suarez, but the ultimate test for Rodgers may yet be the Kop idol instincts of Steven Gerrard. (You don't get long, nowadays, before old pros start muttering about Projects.)

The notion that Rodgers can shake Liverpool from narcolepsy must be put in context by events in the French capital, where dust had until last season been gathering on a vast, uncontested fan-base. And while Ibra's arrival at Paris Saint-Germain commands the headlines, the real coup is the inclusion of Thiago Silva, one of the world's best defenders, in a combined deal worth €65m (£50.5m) – slightly less, in other words, than Dalglish and Comolli paid for Carroll and, let's see, Jordan Henderson.

Though Paris Saint-Germain's 18-year title drought does not extend quite as far as the one at Anfield, they have in that time had debt and resented investors of their own; and they have not even qualified for the Champions League since 2005. But the new Qatari owners now threaten to outstrip their Gulf neighbours at Manchester City, and PSG will be a killer draw for seeded clubs in the group stage this time round.

Quite how they will conform to Financial Fair Play remains to be seen. After all, it may have been precisely FFP that prompted Milan to cut their losses – and terrify their supporters – in this way.

In the meantime, though, it is hard to resist excitement whenever and however the European elite gains diversity.

The real pity is that Ibra's peregrinations can never take him to England now. The grounds for his immodesty have never been properly grasped here. But any who witnessed his comical humiliation of John Terry in Kiev – where the English bulldog, striving to match Ibra's run, collapsed in a heap of patriotic ectoplasm – knows he would have been a roaring success.

Who knows? Perhaps Terry had called him a big girl. Unless, that is, he had simply asked an incredulous question: "Did you think I called you a big girl?"

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