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Ibrahimovic leaves Milan for lucrative Paris deal

Ambitious French club Paris Saint-Germain moved into a new dimension on Wednesday as they presented Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the media as their latest signing.

Ibrahimovic leaves Milan for lucrative Paris deal
Photo: Luis Antonio Rodríguez Ochoa (File)

Ibrahimovic joins the big-spending Ligue 1 side on a three-year contract from AC Milan for a reported fee of around €20 million ($24.5m), and stands to earn a salary worth €14 million a year.

"I want to thank Paris Saint-Germain and (sporting director) Leonardo for the great work they've done," Ibrahimovic told reporters at Parc des Princes.

"I think they've made something that looked impossible, possible. I'm very happy to be sitting here. After lots of talks, I'm finally a PSG player. It's a big step in my career, another dream come true.

"I think this is a very interesting project and I had no doubts. In my mind I was very clear, and I knew what I wanted.

"I want to be part of this club's history and I'm pretty sure we will make history. I came here to win, not for anything else, and I'm pretty sure we'll win some trophies."

He added: "I'm joining a dream team. They'll do everything to win and I want to be part of it. They already have some great players.

"And they've bought the best defender in the world, Thiago Silva. As long as I have him behind me, I don't need to look back.

"They're bringing together the very best. Who wouldn't want to be here?"

The 30-year-old follows in the footsteps of former Milan colleague Thiago Silva, who completed a €42 million move to Paris last week that made the Brazil centre-back the most expensive player in French football history.

The departures of Thiago Silva and Ibrahimovic have robbed Milan of their two brightest stars, but Ibrahimovic said he had not been encouraged to leave the cash-strapped San Siro club, with whom he won the 2011 Italian title.

"No-one at Milan influenced me," he said. "It was my choice and my choice alone."

He added: "I was very happy to be at Milan. They gave me my smile back (after a disappointing season at Barcelona in 2009-10).

"It's a club that will stay in my heart. They helped me and my family, and I don't want to put a shadow over my time there.

"They made it easy for me to come to PSG so I thank them and I wish them all the best."

Having seen their side pipped to the Ligue 1 title by Montpellier last season, PSG's owners, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), have doubled their efforts to turn the team into one of Europe's leading sides.

Ibrahimovic is the fourth player to have joined the club from Serie A this summer, after Thiago Silva, Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, and 19-year-old midfielder Marco Verratti, who was also presented to the press on Wednesday.

The signings of Ibrahimovic and Verratti take PSG's spending on transfers alone to around €100 million this summer, and over €200 millio since QSI bought the club a year ago.

Leonardo said that the acquisition of Ibrahimovic represented the end of the club's summer spending.

"The market is closed for new arrivals," he said. "With Zlatan we've finished in the transfer window this year."

Around a 100 journalists from around the world attended the press conference at which Ibrahimovic was presented, with a significant crowd of supporters waiting outside the stadium for a glimpse of their new star.

Leonardo announced on Tuesday evening that the club had agreed to sign the Sweden captain, who subsequently underwent a medical examination at a Paris hospital on Wednesday morning.

Formerly of Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and Milan, Ibrahimovic has won league titles in three different countries and finished as the top scorer in Serie A last season.

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SPORT

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

Lawyers for FFR President Bernard Laporte said he was going to appeal against the court's verdict

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

French rugby was reeling Tuesday after the president of the country’s governing body Bernard Laporte was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence on corruption charges nine months before France hosts the game’s World Cup.

Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) president Laporte, 58, was convicted after a French court ruled he showed favouritism in awarding a shirt sponsorship contract for the national side to Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier. He was also banned from holding any rugby post for two years. Both are suspended pending an appeal, which Laporte’s lawyer said was imminent.

Laporte later stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, pending a review by the body’s ethics officer.

“World Rugby notes the decision by World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte to self-suspend from all positions held within its governance structures with immediate effect following his conviction by the French court in relation to domestic matters, and pending his appeal,” World Rugby said.

“While acknowledging Laporte’s self-suspension and right of appeal, given the serious nature of the verdict World Rugby’s Executive Committee has referred the matter to its independent ethics officer for review in accordance with its integrity code,” it added.

Resignation call
Laporte faces problems on the domestic front, too, with Florian Grill, who narrowly lost to him in the 2020 election for federation chief, calling for Laporte and the entire board to stand down.

“It is unheard of in rugby, this is an earthquake,” Grill told AFP. “We have never before seen a president of the federation condemned to two
years in prison, even if it suspended.

“We think the 40 members of the board of directors should draw the obvious conclusions and resign.”

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the sentence was an “obstacle for Bernard Laporte to be able, as it stands, to continue his mission in good conditions” as federation president, and called for a “new democratic era to allow French rugby to rebound as quickly as possible and sufficiently healthy and solid, with a governance by the federation that will have the full confidence of the clubs”.

The court found that Laporte ensured a series of marketing decisions favourable to Altrad – who was given an 18-month suspended sentence and
€50,000 euro — in exchange for a €180,000 image licensing contract that was never actually carried out.

Altrad’s lawyer said he would study the decision before deciding on whether to appeal.

At the trial’s close in September, prosecutors said they were seeking a three-year prison sentence for Laporte, of which he should serve one behind bars, and the two others on probation.

The friendship and business links between Laporte and Altrad are at the heart of the case.

It goes back to February 2017, when they signed a deal under which Laporte agreed to appear at Altrad group conferences, and sold his image reproduction rights, in return for €180,000.

But while that sum was  paid to Laporte, prosecutors claim that he neveractually provided the services he signed up for.

Laporte did, however, make several public statements backing Altrad and, in March 2017, signed the €1.8 million deal with the businessman making his namesake firm the first-ever sponsor to appear on the French national team’s jerseys.

The Altrad name and logo still features on the shirts thanks to a follow-up deal negotiated by Laporte in 2018 and which prosecutors say bears all the hallmarks of corruption. It is also on the All Blacks’ national squads’ shirts, and New Zealand Rugby is reportedly seeking an urgent meeting with company officials following the court ruling.

Laporte, formerly a highly successful coach who guided France twice to the World Cup semi-finals (2003 and 2007), was also found guilty of favouritism
with regards to Altrad’s Montpellier Herault Rugby (MHR) club.

He was convicted for intervening with French rugby’s federal disciplinary commission to reduce a fine against the club from €70,000 to €20,000 after several telephone calls from Laporte.

While prosecutors saw this and several more incidents as proof of illicit favouritism, Laporte himself had claimed there was no “cause-effect relationship”.

On the last day of the trial in October, Laporte’s lawyer Fanny Colin accused the prosecution of “confirmation bias” by “taking into account only elements backing their original assumptions”.

The verdict comes only nine months before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France on September 8, 2023, with matches played in nine stadiums across the country.

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