There might not be a bigger enigma in football than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Genius, or overhyped ego?
One day he seems quite happy to demonstrate his abilities as one of the world’s most gifted players, providing his fans plenty of reasons to sing his praises.
And the next, he’ll give his critics every bit as much ammunition to make claims that he simply doesn’t deliver often enough.
Whether or not he’s done enough to win over every footballing fan, his natural talent is without question – as anyone who has seen him at his best will testify.
No finer example of that was his performance against England last night. Certainly, a case can be made that in the last 20 minutes, he was facing a rookie centre back making his international debut, but that fact had little to do with the three sensational goals he scored in the final quarter of an hour.
If there has been acclaim for the way in which Luis Suarez controlled the ball on the way to his recent goal against Newcastle, then Ibrahimovic matched that with his second of the game – controlling a long ball on his chest and volleying past Joe Hart.
England’s keeper may have some fingers of blame pointed at him for Ibrahimovic’s second goal, but the sheer audacity to strike a low free kick from so far out has to be applauded.
The third second half goal is something that words would struggle to do justice to. To refer to Steven Gerrard’s assessment – that it was the best goal he’s ever seen – is about the best I can do.
When it comes to the man who in the process of his remarkable evening broke the Swedish international scoring record, special moments are by no means a rarity.
One of my favourite goals of all time was Ibrahimovic’s strike in a 6-2 win for Ajax over NAC Breda.
Receiving the ball just outside of the area, he turned and proceeded to slalom his way through half of the Breda team.
Even when reaching the point where he was able to get a shot in, the Swede dummied a shot with his right foot, leaving the goalkeeper and the last man diving at fresh air, before then casually rolling it into an empty net with his left foot.
It was as if his only intent was to embarrass as many opponents as possible whilst demonstrating his sublime skill.
If he was rather hit and miss at Juventus, it was during a spell at Inter that he finally showed the footballing world some consistency to his game, and it earned a €69m move to Barcelona.
But despite a reasonable return of first season goals – 16 in 29 appearances, including one at the Camp Nou against Real Madrid – the fit was not right, and he moved back to Milan, first on loan and then permanently.
An average of almost a goal-per-game led in his second season in Milan persuaded Paris Saint-Germain to take him to France as the star piece of their expensively assembled squad managed by Carlo Ancelotti.
With 12 goals already, Ibrahimovic is once again enjoying a fruitful season and may be well on the way to removing any remaining doubts that he has the attitude to match his ability.
At 31, there’s still too much of Ibrahimovic’s past years that haven’t lived up to his world-class reputation for him to be regarded in the same light as Messi or Ronaldo as a modern great.
But he surely has done enough during the peak years of his career to prove beyond doubt that he is a footballing genius.