PSG coach Blanc criticizes Ibrahimovic for taking shirt off
PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been told to keep his tattoos to himself.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker peeled off his shirt after scoring against Caen on Saturday in an effort to draw attention to world famine. Working with the United Nations’ World Food Program, Ibrahimovic had temporary tattoos with the names of 15 people suffering from hunger.
But his exploits, unknown to PSG coach Laurent Blanc at the time, also earned him a yellow card.
“I was aware of his commitment to the foundation, but personally I didn’t know that he’d had several names tattooed on him,” Blanc said Monday. “If it was to show his tattoos then it worked because it made the front page of every website in the world, so in that sense it was very successful for him and for the foundation. But it cost us a yellow card.”
With a match coming up against Chelsea on Tuesday in the last 16 of the Champions League, Blanc has warned Ibrahimovic not to do it again.
In the match against Caen, PSG played the last 10 minutes with nine players because of numerous injuries and conceded two late goals in a 2-2 draw.
“Imagine if the game had become more heated and that he’d got a second yellow card. The game would have been over for us,” Blanc said. “I don’t know if taking his shirt off was a good thing. I hope he won’t take his shirt off if he scores tomorrow because he will get another yellow card. So it’s something to ponder.”
Ibrahimovic, PSG’s top scorer for the past two seasons, was happy with his actions.
“If I could, I would write every single name on my body,” the Swede said Sunday. “But there are 805 million people suffering from hunger in the world.”
Blanc wants an inspirational performance from Ibrahimovic against Premier League leader Chelsea, which knocked PSG out at the quarterfinal stage last season on away goals.
“Both coaches expect a lot from the leaders of their teams, and Zlatan is one of ours,” Blanc said. “In the big games the big leaders drag the team forward, especially when you’re a great scorer as he is.”
PSG is still two points behind league leader Lyon and Blanc’s coaching has been criticized in the French media this season. The current injury crisis — with four players limping off against Caen with muscle injuries — is seen as a result of his failure to rotate players enough and prevent fatigue from kicking in.
“Honestly, when anything happens to this Paris Saint-Germain team, the culprit is quickly found. It’s me,” Blanc said. “If you (the media) worry that I’m not giving everything to get my team 100 percent fit and ready, then you are calling my professional competence into question.”
With so many injuries, PSG can’t afford any suspensions for the return leg, so Blanc will also be keeping a close eye on 22-year-old Italy midfielder Marco Verratti.
Blanc has repeatedly reprimanded Verratti for picking up yellow cards too easily — he has 11 this season.
“Where we demand more from (Verratti) is in terms of his self-control. I know Jose Mourinho well and he will do everything to turn the heat up on the pitch, if you see what I mean,” Blanc said. “I hope my players keep very cool because we can’t afford to get any yellow cards or suspensions. It’s a real test for him tomorrow.”