by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s unveiling as a Paris Saint Germain player, reminded me of Jose Mourinho’s first press conference as Chelsea manager. Back then in 2004. the self-adoring Portuguese, hailed himself as ‘The Special One’. Ibrahimovic is yet another football figure that loves to blow his trumpet. And there couldn’t be a better opportunity this week.
“I don’t know the Ligue 1 players, but for sure they know who I am,” he declared with typical arrogance.
However, if you will, forget about the Swede. The big winners were the French club’s sporting director, Leonardo and the Qatari owners. Ever since the takeover last season, the Ligue 1 side, have made it clear they intend to take over their domestic league and Europe. They started slowly last year with the acquisition of Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta, Jeremy Menez, Alex, etc.
This summer, before Ibrahimovic’s arrival, they had already sealed deals for his former Milan team-mate Thiago Silva and former Napoli winger Ezequiel Lavezzi. The club has also announced the arrival of Italy Under-21 international Marco Verratti from Serie A outfit Pescara at the Parc des Princes.
Let’s get down to the details of it all. Ibrahimovic’s wages for a year is about €12 million after tax – more than Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and just behind Cristiano Ronaldo. Newly-promoted Troyes has a budget of €18m for the whole season, while Ajaccio’s is just over €10m.
Don’t be shocked. It is commonplace now in football. Wealthy families from Asia or moneybags from Russia, are buying European clubs and investing incredible amount of money into transforming ordinary clubs into super powers. We can easily trace this trend to Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea in 2004. More recently, an Abu Dhabi family seized control of Manchester City. These owners do not only arrive with bottomless bank accounts, they have larger than life ambitions.
Abramovich as spent as much on players’ transfers as he has on terminating coaches’ contracts. He was finally rewarded this year with the holy grail – the Champions League trophy. City is neck deep in debts, but they have achieved a small measure of success, winning the FA Cup last year and the league, ahead of city rivals, United, on goals difference this year.
The result? Players are now easily swayed by the weekly pay they can earn elsewhere. And as such, there is hardly any loyalty these days in football. Ibrahimovic, who has now cost a total of £133.2m in transfer fees during his career, has played for Barcelona, Ajax, Inter Milan, Juventus and AC Milan at just 30. And although he initially refused to part of the ‘PSG project’, the insistence of Leonardo, the power of persuasion of Raiola and the financial troubles of AC Milan, dramatically changed the dynamics.
And by Wednesday, he was singing a different tune. “I think they made something impossible possible. This is a very interesting project,” he remarked. “Who doesn’t want to be here? This is the future. Finally I’m a PSG player. It’s a big step in my career. It’s a dream come true.”
It is a trend we should get used to. Paris is now the focus of Europe. And it is not even for its renowed fashion.