Manchester United star Zlatan Ibrahimovic is tougher for centre-backs to deal with than both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to AS Roma’s Kostas Manolas.
The defender has named his five toughest opponents, revealing that he finds the physicality of the Swede is hard for him to cope with.
However, there is the caveat that Messi would likely be higher on the list if he didn’t drop deep, and away from the Greek’s area of play, so often.
Messi’s Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez and Ronaldo’s fellow Real Madrid star Karim Benzema make up the top five, all of whom Manolas has faced during Roma’s recent forays in the Champions League.
‘I played against Ibra in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage with Olympiacos. He’s a force of nature – it’s virtually impossible to stick close to him during a game because of his incredible strength.’ the 25-year-old told Roma’s official site.
Kostas Manolas’ toughest opponents
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Man Utd (then PSG)
- Luis Suarez, Barcelona
- Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
- Lionel Messi, Barcelona
‘He’s also got the sort of technique and skill you rarely find in a player of his stature and build.
‘I played against [Suarez] when we met Barcelona in the Champions League last season. He’s single-minded when it comes to scoring and he knows exactly where the goal is. He’s ferocious, really difficult to keep quiet and lethal in front of goal.
‘Benzema is another tricky customer. He’s strong and skilful, an all-round striker. It’s not easy for defenders to deal with such a combination of physicality and technique.
‘[Cristiano Ronaldo is] a phenomenal player who’s got the lot: dribbling ability, goals and strength. He had two chances over the two legs against us and he scored both. Lethal.
He added on the relatively low rating of Messi: ‘He’s not a true centre forward so I haven’t had to mark him personally and that’s why I’m only putting him in fifth place on this list.
‘But he runs rings around opponents with his pace and he always knows exactly what to do in front of goal – shoot or pass to an unmarked team-mate. He always gets it right.’