02 February 2014

Källström snubbed Zlatan? Good enough for me.

The more I learn of Kim Källström, the more I like and respect the guy—and he hasn't even set foot on the pitch for us, nor will he for another few weeks. However, between this story of him comforting an eight-year old who suffers from Williams Syndrome, a genetic disorder that triggers acute anxiety in response to noise, and the forthcoming story, in which Källström apparently had the audacity to not pass the ball to one Zlatan Ibrahimovic, I'm liking the man and the player more and more.

For as much as many of us craved for a high-profile signing, and for as much as all of us hoped for some kind of reinforcement up top, Källström's arrival might feel a bit underwhelming—anticlimactic, even, given his injury, not to mention his age, his position, his, well, everything.

However, the idea that he might snub fellow Sweden national teammate Zlatan "Zlatan doesn't do trials" Ibrahimovic offers a breath of fresh air. I for one have had my fill of "me-first" players, glory-hounds who thrill to the idea of personal glory with team successes only an afterthought. We've had quite enough of that mentality in recent years as we've seen various players with covetous eyes seek and find greener pastures, abandoning the club—and manager—who did so much for them.

Good riddance to them, I say. It strikes me as no accident that the departure of a certain Dutch striker, though it hobbled us for a time, now sees the club in rare form, atop the Prem. Say what you will about his goals; that kind of mercurial talent can paper over a squad's deficiencies. Without that fig-leaf, the manager is forced to address the deficiencies, whether through strategy, formation, or player-development. Arsène has apparently addressed those deficiencies so well that a certain Dutch striker is now interested in returning to Arsenal, and that brings me back to Källström.

As the story goes, there was a World Cup qualifier between Sweden and Malta way back in 2009, eons ago, but instructive nonetheless. Apparently, there was some friction as Zlatan felt that Källström should have passed him the ball but didn't. After the match, Källström was asked about a few on-field discussions that were more-heated than were necessary, given that Sweden had won the first leg 4-0 and would go on to win the second 0-1. Källström addressed the friction by saying, "we discussed it a bit on the pitch. There is much emotion and so on. He thought I should make the pass to him in a way, but I found someone else. So it goes." Zlatan, as ever the epitome of humility and dignity, responded by saying "he said that in the media? All right. No idea. He should play easily, that's what he should do. He has played too much left-back; that's what he's done." This last bit was an apparent dig at Källström's role at Lyon, where he filled in at left-back. I'm not sure when versatility became an albatross, but there's a larger point here.

Players like Ibrahimovic, van Persie, and others see the world through a certain prism. Through it, other players (even teammates) are means to an end—personal glory. At times, the pursuit of that personal glory produces a glory that others can share in, or at least produce a glow that others can bask in. When it works, no one really seems to question it. After all, silverware shines brightly enough to obscure other issues. However, to build a team capable of sustained success transcends any one player. As scintillating as the Ibrahimovices and van Persies of the world are and can be, they produce but fleeting moments before fading out. If a player like Källström can confidently turn away from a teammate such as Ibrahimovic in order to propel his team onward, so much the better for him and for his team.

We may have to wait a few weeks for Källström to make his first appearance, and we may very well bemoan the failure to secure the services of other, glitzier signings, but it does seem as if we've found man who understands the hard work and team-first attitude that are vital to success.

Victory through harmony.