Keeping Ibrahimovic now the priority for runaway leader PSG
PARIS (AP) — While a fourth consecutive league title for Paris Saint-Germain is a formality, the future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic becomes the main priority.
At the age of 34, Ibrahimovic is playing as well as ever. He has nine goals in his past six games and already has 23 league goals this season.
With 11 games left, he is well on track to beat his career best mark of 30 — set with PSG three seasons ago — and needs only two more goals to reach 100 league goals for PSG.
He is already the club’s all-time leading scorer with 136 goals in all competitions.
If he does reach 100 on Sunday at Lyon, it will just be another reminder to PSG that time is running out to get him to sign to a new contract.
While coach Laurent Blanc wants to keep him, the striker is reportedly looking for a new adventure. That could mean England’s Premier League, the highly ambitious Chinese Super League or Major League Soccer in the United States. Or a return to Spain.
Ibrahimovic, who played one season for Barcelona, has also been linked with a move to Real Madrid, where he is thought to be interested in working with coach Zinedine Zidane.
The more he keeps scoring, the more the interest will grow. PSG’s directors will have to move quickly to keep him — or face the task of looking for another talismanic striker.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s French league games:
A team playing three consecutive away games would usually be anxious to play at home again. Not Marseille.
Marseille is struggling badly at home this season — it has not won a league game at Stade Velodrome since beating Bastia 4-1 on Sept. 13 — and needed an injury-time equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw with Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
Fortunes have been much better on the road, with one loss in the past 14 games.
Paris Saint-Germain right back Serge Aurier is waiting to find out what his punishment will be following his expletive-laced rant at coach Laurent Blanc and some PSG players in an online video chat with fans.
When the video came out two weeks ago, Aurier was immediately suspended until further notice. He met with the club’s directors and Blanc this week as they decide what full course of action to take.
The 23-year-old Ivory Coast international has another three years on his contract and his market value is high for a potential sale. But he has also been one of PSG’s best players this season and midfielder Blaise Matuidi recently spoke up for him, saying he deserves another chance because he apologized for his actions.
PLAYING FOR HIS FUTURE
Marseille striker Steven Fletcher has extra incentive to do well in the last 11 games of the season.
Fletcher joined the southern French club on loan until the end of the season from Premier League side Sunderland, where his contract expires in June.
The 28-year-old Scotland international has scored one goal so far, against amateur side Trelissac in the French Cup, but may need a few more to interest potential clubs — or persuade Marseille to sign him on a long-term basis.
“Marseille could be an option,” Fletcher told French television.
Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev has opened the door for struggling striker Radamel Falcao to return next season.
Falcao joined Monaco in a deal worth nearly 50 million euros ($55 million) three years ago and scored nine goals in 16 league starts before a serious left-knee injury ended his season and ruled him out of the 2014 World Cup.
Falcao is on loan to Premier League club Chelsea, after playing on loan for Manchester United last season. But both spells have been difficult, with Falcao struggling with both form and injuries.
The 30-year-old Colombia striker, once so prolific with Atletico Madrid, has another two years left on his Monaco contract after this season ends.
“We’ll see how things stand at the end of the season,” Vasilyev told RMC radio. “We’re not ruling out that he could return.”
Stopping Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic from scoring is hard enough as it is, let alone with a patched-up defense.
That is the task facing Lyon coach Bruno Genesio, who will be without first-choice center back Samuel Umtiti and right back Christophe Jallet for the visit of PSG on Sunday.
Umtiti is out after the club lost an appeal to overturn his suspension, and Jallet joins him in the stands after being red-carded in last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Lille. Both have been regulars in the side this season.