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IBRAHIMOVIC

Why France might not be too sad to see Ibrahimovic go

While PSG fans will no doubt lament the departure of a legend, many in France won't be too sad to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic walk away, because he earned and said far too much.

Why France might not be too sad to see Ibrahimovic go
All Photos: AFP

“I came as a king and left as a legend”

Ibrahimovic’s announcement on Twitter that he was to leave PSG was classic cocky Zlatan – the same Zlatan who once told a journalist that he was “looking at God”.

Bags of goals, four league titles and several cups mean fans of PSG will no doubt agree with Zlatan’s own analysis of his stature.

Apart perhaps from those who think he under performed in the big matches like every Champions League quarter final PSG played in before getting knocked out.

But Ibrahimovic had a different relation with the rest of France, especially the newly elected Socialist government with whom he made enemies as soon as stepped off the plane from Milan in the summer of 2012.

His initial salary of €14 million a year (which recently rocketed to €1.5 million a month) – by far the most ever paid to a French player had MPs in a froth. At a time when France was struggling with unemployment, Ibrahimovic and his salary represented everything that wrong with the world.

While some rejoiced in the fact he would be paying the notorious 75 percent tax on much of his earnings, a former sports minister said it was “disgusting”, another said “deplorable” and ex-Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac (pictured below) described the pay as “indecent”.

Although to be fair to Ibrahimovic, he doesn’t have to take any merde from Cahuzac, the minister who admitted hiding hundreds of thousands of euros away in a secret Swiss bank account. Now that’s indecent.

Of course a few outbursts from a few politicians were hardly going to knock the mighty Ibrahimovic out of his giant stride, but maybe the snipings did get to him.

In a famous rant, that unfortunately for Zlatan was caught on camera, he called France a “shit” country that “didn’t deserve” his club PSG.

Once again it was politicians who came off the bench to attack the man-bunned Swede.

Insulting France was never likely to go down well with the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who invited Ibrahimovic to pack his bags.

“Those who consider France a shit country can leave,” she said.

Jerome Guedj, a leading Socialist party politician, called the remarks “unacceptable”. “Let him play football and shut up, or at least be respectful of this country, the football supporters who were also insulted.”

To be fair to the player himself, he later apologised.

“My words were not targeting France or the French people. I was speaking about football and nothing else,” the apologetic striker said.

But it wasn’t the first time Ibrahimovic had upset the locals, indeed he regularly broke the golden rule foreigners need to observe in France – being complimentary to your hosts, at least in public.

Here’s what he once said about Parisians:

“I don’t know what they want. We win, we lose and they whistle.

“Maybe they are used to eating caviar before they come to the match,” he said.

But it wasn’t just his money or his mouth that made him somewhat unpopular in France, there were other traits that hardly endeared him to the locals.

For a start the French love someone who will at least make an attempt with their language.

Zlatan, it can be said, was hardly an enthusiastic student as one web joker pointed as he mocked Zlatan over his “King, legend” Tweet.

“He came with no French, he left with no French.”

The rant against France was in English, as was his final tweet and most press conferences, but to be fair he did attempt to speak French once on television, much to the enjoyment of his giggling teammates (see below).

Then there was his arrogance, which might be judged a valuable quality in Paris, but outside the capital, arrogance isn’t really as welcomed as you might think.

Ibrahimovic was so cocky that when he suggested Paris should pull down the Eiffel Tower and replace it with a statue of himself, most believed he was being serious.

The player made it pretty clear from the very beginning of his time at PSG that France’s Ligue 1 was simply too small fry for him although he was prepared to put up with it.

“I don’t know a lot about Ligue 1, but Ligue 1 knows exactly who I am,” was what he said when he first arrived in France.

Another famous Parisian trait he picked up was the love of a good moan.

He apparently grew frustrated by having to stay in the luxury Grand Hotel (see below) as he struggled to find a suitable apartment in Paris.

Granted we can all sympathise with him when it comes to the nightmare of flat-hunting in Paris, apart from the fact he was looking for a palace, not a 30 square metre flat with a separate kitchen and toilet if possible.

The striker's flat-hunting ordeal went on for months until Le Parisien newspaper reported that in December last year he finally found the apartment he had been looking for (or three of them to be precise, which he was going to knock together).

Ibrahimovic will also not be lamented too much by France’s feminists.  When asked about the role of his wife in his career, he said: “My wife stays at home to look after my kids. It’s the only thing I need her to do.”

So while Zlatan Ibrahimovic the player will no doubt leave France as a legend, Zlatan the man, might not (well apart from his tax revenues).

Although as one PSG fan pointed out, all the reasons presented above are exactly why Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be missed in France, even if not everyone will admit it.

 

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FOOTBALL

PSG cruise to victory on Zlatan’s Malmö return

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on his return to hometown club Malmö as Paris Saint-Germain ended the Swedish team's Champions League dream on Wednesday after routing their Group A rivals 5-0 in Sweden.

PSG cruise to victory on Zlatan's Malmö return
PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Wednesday's match. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT

First-half goals from Adrien Rabiot and Angel Di Maria put the French champions in control before Ibrahimovic struck just after the interval.

Di Maria was then on target again before Lucas added a late fifth to ensure PSG's progression to the knockout phase for the fourth straight year.

“I lived a dream tonight, coming back. On top of that I scored one. I'm very happy,” said Ibrahimovic.

“Since the beginning, there's a great relationship between Malmö's fans and me.”

Fellow goalscorer Rabiot added: “We thought it would have been harder. We did the job and we're through. I'm very proud of my first Champions League goal.”

However, Real Madrid's 4-3 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk means that PSG go through as runners-up, exposing Laurent Blanc's side to the possibility of being drawn against Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the next round.

“There was a chance to finish top of our group. It was a shame we had that defeat (against Real),” bemoaned Blanc, whose side round out their group campaign at home to Shakhtar.

Malmö can still drop into the Europa League but the odds are stacked against them with the Swedes needing to pick up at least a point at the Santiago Bernabeu in a fortnight to stand a chance.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaving the pitch. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT

Much was made of Ibrahimovic returning to the club with whom his professional career began 16 years ago, with the Sweden captain booking out Malmö's main square to show the match on a big screen for those without tickets.

The 34-year-old was also handed the PSG captain's armband for the occasion, but there was little room for sentiment once the game kicked off as the visitors silenced the home fans just three minutes in when Rabiot headed home a Gregory van der Wiel cross for his first European goal.

PSG were cruising with less than a quarter-hour gone as Di Maria doubled their lead, curling low just inside Johan Wiland's right-hand post after he was picked out on the edge of the area by Blaise Matuidi.

Norway forward Jo Inge Berget came close to pulling one back, jinking past Van der Wiel after linking up with Markus Rosenberg only to be denied by a fine stop from PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.


Malmö fans watching the game on a big screen TV. Photo: Jon Willén/TT

Ibrahimovic then took centre stage five minutes into the second half, beating Wiland from a tight angle to end an 11-month European goal drought and erase any hopes of a Malmö fightback.

The hosts were awarded a penalty on 61 minutes after Nikola Djurdjic was fouled by Maxwell, but Rosenberg smacked his spot-kick against the post.

Di Maria notched his second of the evening soon after as Maxwell atoned for his earlier error by finding the unmarked Argentine who headed past a helpless Wiland.

That was Di Maria's last act as he was immediately replaced by Lucas and it was the Brazilian who capped the rout by curling home a free-kick eight minutes from time.

The sell-out crowd at the Malmö New Stadium then rose in unison to applaud their hero as Ibrahimovic made way for Jean-Kevin Augustin late on.