Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not on the pitch for Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 home loss to Barcelona in the Champions League this week. The striker was serving a ban for a red card he received when PSG edged Chelsea on away goals in a 2-2 thriller at Stamford Bridge last month. With Edinson Cavani continuing to flounder when deployed as a central striker, Zlatan’s presence was badly missed as PSG was cut open by a superior Barcelona side.
While he will be available for next week’s second leg at the Camp Nou, the towering Swede is also now facing a four-match domestic ban for a tirade against French football and France that was caught on video earlier this year. This leaves PSG without its most important player as the reigning champions head into the final stretch of the season, locked in an airtight, four-way title race with Lyon, Monaco and Marseille.
The call that got Ibra sent off against Chelsea and a one-match ban in the Champions League, was admittedly a questionable one. However the rant that got him banned in Ligue 1 is less defensible. Upset by refereeing decisions that went against PSG in a 3-2 loss to Bordeaux, Ibra is caught on camera after a match berating the refs and French football in general. At one point, he refers to France as a “sh** country.”
Authorities slapped with a three-match ban, which resulted in four matches after a previously suspended one-game ban was reactivated. Ibra’s agent, Mino Raiola, has hit out at the ban, claiming Zlatan is being singled-out for overly harsh punishment.
“It’s not fair, but I’m not surprised. I had said that Zlatan would get a four, five or even six-game ban,” said Raiola to France Football. “If it had been a normal player, it would have been one match maximum.”
There is an argument that because Zlatan has a higher profile, he might be more subject to being made an example of by French football authorities. But then a player of Zlatan’s stature should arguably also know better. His tackle in the Champions League should probably have been a yellow card, not a red. Would his presence against Barça have made a difference? Maybe not, but it wouldn’t have hurt. Zlatan’s on-camera rant, on the other hand, might prove costly for PSG in the league.
Currently in second place, two points behind Lyon, Les Parisiens have had a tougher than expected time in the league this season, particularly because Ibra was out injured for several months. However the striker has been in excellent form since making his return, scoring 13 goals in nine matches. But with just seven games left in the season, Ibra’s four-game ban could seriously undermine PSG’s final push as it attempts to win its third consecutive title.
All of this comes at a time when the Swedish striker’s future in French football has been cast into doubt. Recently, Ibrahimovic was spotted applying for a U.S. visa amidst speculation that he might be lining up a move to Major League Soccer.
Raiola however, has strongly denied the former AC Milan striker has any plans to leave PSG at the end of the season. And Ibra will be available for the second leg of PSG’s clash with Barcelona next week. Whether his impact will be enough to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg is doubtful. In the meantime, PSG has appealed Zlatan’s Ligue 1 ban, resulting in a temporary suspension of the ban. This means Ibrahimovic will be allowed to take part as PSG face Nice on Saturday.