Ibrahimovic grabbing headlines with words as well as goals
PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in the spotlight again, as much for his comments as his goals.
The imposing Swede’s four goals in the 9-0 win away to Troyes last weekend took his tally to a league-leading 27 — three behind his career best — and helped secure Paris Saint-Germain’s fourth straight league title.
But what he said afterward grabbed the headlines as much as his performance. Asked whether he will stay at PSG next season, his response was both cryptic and extravagant.
“I don’t know. But for the moment I’m not here (staying),” Ibrahimovic said on French television. “I don’t believe (the club) can change the Eiffel (Tower) for my statue. But if they can I will stay here, I promise.”
It was followed by a booming laugh as Ibrahimovic’s straight face broke into a smile.
One senses he was only half-joking.
Only days earlier, before PSG played away to Chelsea in the Champions League, Ibrahimovic made what some observers perceived as a disrespectful comment in saying PSG was only born when the cash-rich Qatari investors — QSI — arrived in 2011.
Somewhat harsh, seeing as PSG has never been beyond the Champions League quarterfinals since 2011, but reached the semifinals in 1995 and won the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup in ’96.
When Ibrahimovic joined PSG four years ago he was seen as the talismanic global star the club needed to achieve the European glory its ambitious Qatari owners so crave.
His future at the club remains a mystery, but if he decides to leave then his legacy will be incomplete without winning the Champions League — the major trophy missing in his glittering cabinet.
Here are some other things about this weekend’s games:
While there is debate surrounding Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future, Paris Saint-Germain faces a summer of uncertainty concerning several other players.
While lynchpin midfielder Marco Verratti has committed his future to PSG, the promising Adrien Rabiot is attracting attention following a string of impressive performances in the injured Verratti’s absence.
The 20-year-old Rabiot irked the club in January by saying he would consider a move away from the club unless he gets regular playing time.
But Verratti’s return next month will likely consign him to the bench and, considering his growing reputation, another season starting as substitute will hardly suit him.
Brazilian defender Marquinhos also wants more playing time, while striker Edinson Cavani remains frustrated at playing out of position on the wing to accommodate Ibrahimovic.
No. 2 goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu hardly gets a game and seems certain to leave, while 34-year-old Brazilian defender Maxwell is unlikely to be offered a new deal.
It promises to be a revolving door in the transfer market this summer for PSG.
Paris Saint-Germain secured its fourth straight French title with a record eight games to spare and a record 13 away wins away — including a record 9-0 victory at Troyes.
There are more records in sight.
PSG needs only 13 points to beat its record haul of 89 from two seasons ago.
PSG’s miserly defense has conceded only 15 goals and is on course to concede fewer than Marseille’s record of 21 from 1991-92.
Coach Laurent Blanc’s side leads second-place Monaco by 25 points, making it odds-on to beat the record winning margin of 17 set by Lyon in 2006-07.
Beating its own record of 27 wins in a season seems a formality given PSG has already won 24; as does surpassing the best ever goal difference of plus 63 set by Reims in 1959-60.
PSG’s is plus 62 and counting ahead of Sunday’s home game against Monaco.
FEKIR CLOSE TO RETURN
Lyon’s late push to finish in second place and qualify automatically for the Champions League could be boosted by the imminent return of goal-scoring playmaker Nabil Fekir.
Fekir ruptured his right knee ligaments playing for France back in September and has been working hard to return in time for the last few games of the season.
Fekir said this week in an interview with France Football magazine that he hopes to be back playing in early April after the international break.
Before his injury, Fekir caught the eye with a superbly-taken hat-trick in a 4-0 win at Caen.
With its fervent atmosphere and sometimes vitriolic fans, teams once feared playing at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome.
Not this season.
With the proud club languishing in mid-table mediocrity, Marseille’s players are under increasing pressure after drawing a league-leading 15 games.
Rennes, which is pushing for a top-three place, will hardly dread Friday’s trip south considering that Marseille’s last home win was way back on Sep. 13.