Ibrahimovic takes PSG into new dimension
PARIS: With the acquisition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain have finally secured the marquee signing they had been chasing since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club a year ago.
At around 20 million euros ($24.5 million), the Swedish striker cost less than half of what PSG paid for his team-mates Javier Pastore and Thiago Silva but his name will resonate much further.
French sports newspaper L’Equipe described him as “the star (PSG) have been waiting for,” while PSG sporting director Leonardo had no hesitation in calling it “the biggest transfer in the club’s history”.
By signing one of the world’s leading strikers – the top scorer in Serie A last season with 28 goals for AC Milan – PSG have proved their ability to attract players of the very highest calibre to Parc des Princes.
PSG had spent over 100 million euros on new players prior to the beginning of this summer’s transfer window but they were still seeking to attract a name from the uppermost reaches of the sport’s stratosphere.
The breakthrough arrived last week, when PSG managed to resurrect a 42-million-euro move for Brazil captain Thiago Silva that appeared to have fallen through in June.
At last, PSG had a world-renowned player of undeniable pedigree and his former Milan colleague Ibrahimovic was quick to follow.
Having missed out on David Beckham, Alexandre Pato and Carlos Tevez in very public fashion since the turn of the year, PSG finally had their man, and Ibrahimovic did not disappoint during his official presentation on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old met press conference questions with trademark self-assurance and then grinned through the fan hysteria that greeted him at public appearances on the Champs-Elysees and next to the Eiffel Tower.
Presenting Ibrahimovic in front of Paris’ iconic landmark was a cunning marketing coup, guaranteeing widespread media coverage that depicted the club at the heart of a city that is often accused of showing scant regard for football.
In footballing terms, Ibrahimovic is as close to a dead cert as it is possible to find.
Since joining Juventus from Ajax in 2004, he has scored 138 league goals in eight seasons and even when he disappoints, such as during his ill-fated 2009-10 sojourn at Barcelona, he still inevitably ends up with a league winner’s medal.
The giant, technically audacious Swede won league titles every season between 2004 and 2011, although the 2005 and 2006 Serie A crowns he won with Juventus were revoked due to the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.
It is that trophy-winning know-how that PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti will seek to harness as he bids to lead the under-achieving club from the French capital to a first Ligue 1 success since 1994.
With Marseille and Lyon short of funds, champions Montpellier unlikely to repeat last season’s heroics and Lille adjusting to life after Eden Hazard, PSG will start the 2012-13 campaign as clear favourites to claim the French championship.
Now that PSG have so much quality in their ranks, L’Equipe has asked if the club can already start to contemplate Champions League glory but Marseille captain Steve Mandanda says they should not get ahead of themselves.
“On paper, PSG are the favourites and should dominate the championship,” he said.
“But last year, that’s what was expected at the start of the season, and it was Montpellier who won.”
“Ibra” will be the star attraction wherever PSG go next season and he admitted he would have to do some homework on his future opponents.
“I’ll have to learn about them,” he said. “But, for sure, they already know who I am.”
With one of the world’s most talented, colourful and marketable centre-forwards at the tip of their attack, it will be even harder to shift PSG from the headlines next season.