It was an ending fit for a king, so grand that even a self-proclaimed one such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be humbled. Pausing a game in mid flow after only ten minutes to applaud a player is remarkable but for Zlatan it was likely expected. Having given his all for the club and firmly rebooted a faltering French top division, Ligue 1 over the past four years, the rousing ovation was the least they could do. Even if you don’t buy into his unique brand of narcissism, it’s hard to deny Zlatan’s talents. For a big guy (he stands tall at 6ft 5inches), the Swedish powerhouse is incredibly nimble with a touch that many would pray for making up for his lack of pace. Added into this, his ability to score with almost any part of his body including his chest in Saturday’s win makes him a genuine legend of the game. 113 goals in 122 games for PSG also make him a record breaker for the club which remarkably included a 37, yes 37 goal haul this season. Not bad going for a 34-year-old.
So as he gets set to wave goodbye (his final game will be the cup final against Marseille next weekend), the question is where will he end up. If you are to believe the rumour mill, Zlatan is moving to China, the US and Qatar all at the same time. Whilst those option present lucrative alternatives to the player, Ibrahimovic is not one who would be easily enticed having already amassed a small fortune during his stay in the french capital. With two or three good seasons still in him, the all time record goalscorer for Sweden will remain in Europe for one last roll of the dice. A return to Italy with either Juventus or AC Milan where he spent valuable time in his career would tick the box as would a move to Spain. But all indications are that Zlatan wants to have a crack at the English Premiership, alerting several clubs there early on about his upcoming availability.
Whilst English fans and its media hungry clubs would drool over the prospect of his arrival, it’s hard to see exactly which club would take him. At 35, Zlatan is no spring chicken but can still offer more than some strikers ten years his junior. But with a wage demand higher than most corporate CEO’s and an attitude to match, few clubs are in a position to offer him a contract. The two Manchester clubs, City and United would be able to afford to have a luxury like Ibrahimovic in its ranks but with new managers at the helm next season (Guardiola at City and Mourinho at United – we all know that is happening) its unlikely that either would want the headache in their first campaigns.
The thought of him signing for Leicester a year ago was nothing more than a Football Manager fantasy but now as English Champions, Zlatan may actually consider it. Whether Claudio would want him is a different story. Having magically guided the Foxes to a surprise title win this year, Claudio is keen not to destroy what he has built by bring in players who will disrupt the harmony. Unfortunately Zlatan is no shrinking violet so the prospect of a Ibrahimovic/Vardy partnership looks faint.
Perhaps Chelsea may take a look with the club keen to freshen up their squad after a disappointing season. The arrival of a player like Zlatan would help bolster ticket and merchandise sales but perhaps only enough to cover his exuberant wage demands. Added into this Chelsea has learned from its murky past that superstar strikers don’t necessarily work for them with Schevchenko and Torres two expensive examples. Furthermore things have now changed at Chelsea with owner Roman Abramovich closing his wallet in recent seasons in favour of the club being more self efficient. If they were to bring in Ibrahimovic, then a few players would have to leave to balance the books. Eden Hazard’s time at Stamford Bridge look in doubt after an abject season so a move to Paris for him on a bumper transfer fee may allow new boss Antonio Conte the breathing room to go big on Zlatan.
Arsenal could also be an option. Having tried and failed miserably to entice Zlatan to attend a trial when he was a 17-year-old at Malmo (Zlatan refused stating that he doesn’t do auditions), Arsene Wenger could come back for him. That is if the french manager is still in the role with several sections of the fans calling for a change. However a final day victory that clinched second place in the league and more importantly bumped Arsenal ahead of arch rivals Tottenham in the league standings could give him enough breathing room for one last season. To please the fans, Wenger will need to bring in a superstar and Zlatan certainly ticks that box. Wenger knows that Zlatan could be the key piece of the puzzle that his team have been missing and by signing him it would give him the best shot yet of winning the title.
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