Not long ago, I posted about how PSG should move forward after yet another Champions League failure against Manchester City. The first point on my list was the most controversial: to let Zlatan Ibrahimovic go. To relieve this mercurial yet overshadowing talent, and allow others to grow as leaders. To create a more unified and free-flowing team, less dependent on one player.
Yet, last week’s confirmation that the Swedish striker would indeed leave Paris at the end of the season is an emotional announcement for anyone associated with the club, me included. The news came in the most Zlatan way imaginable, as the giant simply tweeted:
My last game tomorrow at Parc des Princes. I came like a king, left like a legend pic.twitter.com/OpLL3wzKh0
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) May 13, 2016
It would be hard to disagree with this imperious synopsis of his time in Paris. Since his arrival, Ibra has won 11 trophies – and still counting – while breaking the club’s scoring record in just 4 years. Last weekend, for his final outing at Parc des Princes, he scored another brace, which takes his total to 154 goal in 179 matches. It was his 38th goal of the campaign, and one last broken club record. Remarkable.
It was an emotional night for the player himself. As the 10th minute clocked, the referee stopped the game to allow a standing ovation, a mark of respect for the now legendary number 10. An overwhelmed Zlatan later walked off the pitch with his two children (despite PSG’s having already made 3 subs, because fuck it), under the cheers of a crowd thankful for all the joy and memories.
After the game, Zlatan grabbed a mic to speak directly to the fans. He described PSG as the best team he’s been part of, of course concluding that although winning without Zlatan isn’t easy, the club would go forward with success.
Zlatan’s contribution went beyond the goals and trophies he’s been accustomed to collecting throughout his incredible career. Not only is he the most talented footballer ever to grace our turf, he’s a real superstar, a winner who’s capable of changing a game with one stroke of genius.
Zlatan not only helped win via his wonder goals, he along with players such as Thiago Motta helped change the club’s mentality at the core, to mature into the fabulous winning machine it is today. Not just to aim for victory, but to genuinely despise failure.
PSG is only 45 years old, and has been condemned to mid-table status for most of its history. The arrival of Ibra, the first major star since takeover, has transformed expectations at the club, and its image world wide.
Loved by most, hated by many: Zlatan is not just a sensational player and leader, but a character too. In his time at the club, he gave us so much entertainment, with outrageous declarations off the pitch only matched by the tricks he attempted – and generally pulled off – on it.
Of course, there were the missed opportunities of Europe, when too often he went missing on big occasions. His straight red card at Chelsea was a notable low point. And at times, his words were incredibly clumsy (he actually called France a shit country, live on French TV!). But for someone with such personality, the occasional blip is both expected and forgiven. One thing’s for sure, people will continue to talk about the Zlatan era for a while.
But the time is right for him to go. QSI’s project is built towards winning the Champions League, and Ibra never managed to overcome his life-long struggle to be decisive in Europe’s top competition. At now 34, it’s time he gave others the opportunity. Ibrahimovic’s departure will allow players like Pastore and Verratti to step forward, and finally give Cavani the centre forward role he’s been craving. It also leaves a spot for a new flagship superstar.
On behalf on all PSG fans, merci pour tout Zlatan. Your goals and unique personality will never be forgotten. You’re a legend.