Since bursting onto the
Swedish football scene as an outrageously skilful teenager, Zlatan
Ibrahimovic has divided opinion and his move to Paris
Saint-Germain from AC Milan will not change that.
Some will see the transfer as Sweden's most talented player
trading sporting ambition for money as he takes an unexpected
step down after a career with some of Europe's biggest clubs.
His supporters back home will say the opposite and claim
big-spending PSG offer the tall striker his best chance of
winning the Champions League before he retires.
For a player who has made no secret of his desire to win
European club football's elite title, PSG would seem an unusual
choice but having attracted combined transfer fees running into
hundreds of millions of euros, it can hardly be for money alone
that last season's Serie A top scorer has moved to France.
When he left Malmo FF as a callow youth in 2001, Ibrahimovic
began a professional career in which he dominated defences and
made headlines in almost equal measure.
Before leaving Sweden, the forward specialised in tormenting
defenders in the first and second divisions - Allsvenskan and
Superettan, gaining a reputation for being 'un-Swedish'.
His detractors said Ibrahimovic was arrogant and selfish,
taking the Swedish game away from its roots which are based in
collective effort and organisation.
His legions of admirers, however, saw him as a youthful
genius, comparable to the talented players seen in South America
with his dribbles, flicks and solo raids.
A move to Ajax Amsterdam was the start of a string of
successful seasons, spectacular goals and a remarkable run of
league titles as he established himself at the top of the game.
Although Juventus were subsequently stripped of two league
crowns following the Calciopoli scandal, Ibrahimovic won titles
every season for eight years at five clubs in three countries.
That winning streak came to an end when AC Milan's challenge
faded in the final weeks of last season, allowing Andrea
Pirlo-inspired Juve to snatch the title from their grasp.
Despite such a dominant presence in domestic football,
Ibrahimovic has never won the Champions League.
A virtuoso performance in Milan's last 16 match against
Arsenal suggested he might be about to change that last season,
but they then lost to Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
With his 31st birthday coming up in October, time is running
out if Ibrahimovic is to win the major European trophy his
cabinet is lacking.
With free-spending Qatari owners and experienced Italian
Carlo Ancelotti as coach, PSG are an interesting project but
whether a club with a distinct lack of success in Europe's top
competitions can win the Champions League remains to be seen.
Roman Abramovich's millions quickly brought domestic success
for Chelsea but it took nine years before the Russian owner saw
his club lift the Champions League trophy.
Manchester City may have won the Premier League for their
generous Arab owners last term but they failed to get out of
their group on their Champions League debut.
PSG have one European trophy to their name, having lifted
the Cup Winners' Cup in 1996, and the lack of quality opposition
in France's top league certainly does not offer the best
preparation for playing in Europe's elite club competition.
Having seen his former teams Inter Milan and Baraa win the
Champions League the season after he was sold, Ibrahimovic will
hope Ancelotti, himself a former AC Milan player, can help him
fill the glaring gap in his personal trophy haul at last.
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