Zlat's bad for Barca

Villa left in tears by Swedish signing

Last Updated: 02/09/09 10:17am

Ibrahimovic: Overpriced

La Liga experts Guillem Balague and Graham Hunter have both revealed how David Villa was left in tears by Barcelona's capture of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"Samuel Eto'o toyed with Manchester City, he made them believe he wanted to go there. I remember Mark Hughes gave Eto'o a 48-hour ultimatum, saying if you're not coming now you won't be coming. Two hours before that ultimatum, Eto'o was sending texts to Mark Hughes saying 'please wait for me, wait for me'"

Guillem Balague

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Balague explained on Revista de la Liga that Samuel Eto'o simply had to leave Barca this summer, with Guardiola desperate to offload a player who flirted with Manchester City all summer.

However, both Balague and Hunter agree that mega-money signing Ibrahimovic was not Guardiola's first choice replacement, insisting the plug was pulled on David Villa at the eleventh hour - leaving the Valencia man in tears.

"The day before Barcelona signed Ibrahimovic, they had a deal to sign David Villa," Balague told Revista.

"The next day it didn't happen and there are lots of rumours about that - some people are saying (Real Madrid president) Florentino Perez intervened and stopped the transfer. Who knows?

"In any case, the deal did not take place after agreeing about €45 million for David Villa. So they went for Ibrahimovic. Why? Because they had already got rid of Eto'o.

Flirting with City

"Samuel Eto'o toyed with Manchester City, he made them believe he wanted to go there. I remember Mark Hughes gave Eto'o a 48-hour ultimatum, saying if you're not coming now you won't be coming. Two hours before that ultimatum, Eto'o was sending texts to Mark Hughes saying 'please wait for me, wait for me'.

"He was just playing with City. Nobody else was willing to pay the money that Inter were.

"Guardiola just wanted Eto'o out. He was a player with privileges who just had to go."

Villa's better than Ibra

Hunter believes Barcelona made a mistake by signing Ibrahimovic, insisting Villa would have been the ideal replacement for Eto'o.

"Let's pick out the strengths that Ibrahimovic brings. Number one, he adds physical presence. Number two, they didn't win the ball in the air an awful lot last season. When was the last time Barcelona won a game with three headers?

"The physical presence is Ronaldinho-esque at his best. We saw one moment in the Super Cup where Zlatan received the ball back to goal, looked one way and volleyed a pass out to Lionel Messi in the opposite direction. It was what Ronaldinho used to do.

"The change from Eto'o is drastic though. In my opinion they've made a net footballing loss.

"They should have run down the last year of Eto'o's contract and signed David Villa, and they would still be up on the Ibrahimovic deal. Eto'o is a professional, he is a worker, he would not have skived that 12 months.

"Villa was in tears that the deal with Barca did not go through, for a tough man that shows how much he wanted to come.

"They've not signed the players they wanted this summer, they've done bad business. Guardiola wanted Juan Mata or David Silva, a left-sided striker, he hasn't got it. They'll need luck with injuries."

Guardiola's master plan

Balague understands Guardiola's line of thinking with Ibrahimovic though, explaining that the Barca coach wants greater variety in his already mind-boggling attack.

"You have to start with Guardiola's thinking, and then that takes you to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Barcelona has one rival and that is Barcelona. They just want to improve on what they've done, which is impossible, or equal it, which is almost impossible. Anything else is almost seen as a failure.

"Guardiola has started to anticipate the problems the side may face, he's changing the way the full backs work, he's changing the role of the centre midfield player, and of course he's changed the striker.

"He felt he needed something new, something different, and Ibrahimovic does that.

"The idea is that the midfielders will add more goals playing with Ibrahimovic, that the opposition defence will be posed with different problems.

"He's trying to create more problems. For instance, Guardiola's idea this season is that the central midfielder drops back into defence when Barcelona go forward, creating a three-man defence that allows both full backs to go forward.

"At the moment there are teething problems. The full backs are getting into positions where the wide attackers are already stood. The team is building a whole new mechanism that eventually should improve the side.

"Ibrahimovic's role in this is that he drops deep and allows midfielders to break from deeper positions."