The return of “individualist” Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the Sweden squad for the World Cup could disrupt the dynamic that earned them a place in Russia, goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson has said.
Ibrahimovic retired from international football after his country were knocked out of Euro 2016, but since Janne Andersson’s squad saw off Italy in a dramatic qualification playoff the LA Galaxy forward has dropped regular hints that he would welcome a return to the international fold.
But Johnsson, who is back-up to Sweden No. 1 Robin Olsen, said an international comeback for the former Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester United forward would upset the balance within the Sweden squad.
“It’s up to the coach to see if he wants to bring him,” Johnsson, who plays his club football with French club Guingamp, told Main Oppose. “We managed to qualify and go through to the World Cup without him, and I think we can manage to play well at the World Cup without him. But as I said, it’s up to the coach to decide if he wants him to join, and I’m sure if he does join, he will play well,”
“As a team, we play as a collective, all the players together. With Zlatan, as a person, as a player he’s an individualist, and the play goes around him. Instead, now, we play more the team all together.
“It’s a different style of play when you have a player like Zlatan, Cristiano [Ronaldo] or [Lionel] Messi in your team, because they’re world-class players, and you have to use those players to win the game and play in a special way. I don’t know if the coach wants such a big change, because he’ll have to change the whole system of how he wants to play.”
In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday, Ibrahimovic said he would be going to the World Cup, but refused to be drawn on whether it would be as a player of spectator.
“I just said I’m going to the World Cup,” Ibrahimovic said. “If I say more, people will hang me, so I have to be careful what I say now.”
Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman