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Manchester United must consider if there is space for another 'Boss' in Zlatan

Is there room for two big egos in the dressing room?

THERE IS FOOTAGE of Zlatan Ibrahimovic marching his Paris St-Germain team-mates through the media zone after a match at Lille last season.

“Follow me, follow me, nobody talks,” he orders at those trailing behind him. “Why nobody talks?” enquires a journalist waiting for quotes from the PSG players. “Because I am the boss,” came the reply from Zlatan.

PSG were initially content to grant that dressing room power to him. He was brought in from AC Milan as the Qataris needed to make an impact. His pedigree, his personality, his star quality all ensured the club would have a ready-made leader for their assault at the big time. It worked. Four successive titles followed. He was on top of the world at PSG; the commander no matter the identity of the coach.

The club’s strategy has changed now. PSG brought to and end a four-year relationship with Zlatan this summer even though the player himself would have gladly stayed on the right terms. They no longer want Zlatan nor are they looking to replace him with a similarly iconic figure. There is a focus now on creating a unified team, not a group of subordinates around one incontrovertible star.

Zlatan enjoys the same kind of leadership role he had at PSG with his national team. For Sweden it makes sense that the team to play for him. Erik Hamren, the Sweden coach, has coaxed the best international football of Zlatan’s career precisely because he’s made him the undisputed leader. He is centre stage, the centre piece of an otherwise average team.

It would not be remiss to say that he dragged his nation to Euro 2016 with three goals in two legs against Denmark in the play-offs. And look at the reactions to that win; all about one man.

“I made a good decision in making him captain because he needs to take a lot of responsibility for the team as captain, and he’s been really good at it,” Hamren told InsideFutbol before the tournament.

“It’s a challenge – a world class player and good players, but not as good as as him – to get a good team. We have found a good chemistry between the world class player and the team and vice versa. He’s always been fantastic, but now he is matching his club level in the past with Sweden.”

Zlatan absorbs all the pressure, all the attention and gives his less capable team-mates breathing space. He is well-suited to that role having played it to perfection for club and country.

However, the offers have not exactly been flooding in for the world’s most high-profile free agent, which is odd for a striker who scored 50 goals in 51 games last season. Only Manchester United from the list of major European clubs have been in touch while rumours of a move to the US – where his wife holds significant business interests – persisted through the spring and early summer. No Bayern Munich, no Real Madrid among the list of potential suitors. Despite the goals and reputation, the truly elite band of clubs have passed on him.

Even United, for their part, are taking their time. There will be no deal until after the Euros, says Hamren. And Jose Mourinho may still be mulling over the wisdom of a decision to install a power rival in the dressing room from day one at Old Trafford.

It is natural some of the more inexperienced players would be drawn to a figure as iconic and charismatic as Ibrahimovic. Likewise, there are big players in there too with minds of their own who might not take kindly to being ordered around by Ibrahimovic.

When Mourinho first coached Zlatan, at Inter in 2008, he was indeed brash, cocky, over-confident, arrogant, whatever you want to call it. But he has undergone a metamorphosis even since then.

Whatever made Zlatan Zlatan in the first place, his very essence in fact, has been bottled up and sold. His autobiography gave life to the persona created for him by ghost author David Lagercrantz.

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And now, he is no longer the bicycle-thieving teen on the tough streets of Malmo, he is instead selling Volvos in ridiculously overblown, patriotic advertisements. His background, that kid from Rosengard, is part of the mystique but he is a multimillionaire who lived for six months in Paris’s most exclusive hotel, Le Bristol.

He has spent the fortnight before a major championships launching a clothing line. ‘Dare to Zlatan’ has become an advertising slogan. These are all things that the young Zlatan might very well sneer at. He is an establishment star packaged up to not look like one. Somewhere along the way, Zlatan the player was conflated with Zlatan the ‘brand’. It is hard to know now where one ends and the other begins.

For many reasons, this is no ordinary out of contract 34-year-old. Manchester United are bringing in not only a striker but an ego and an industry. Having appointed Mourinho and given him total authority, they might well have to consider if there is space for another Boss.

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