The star duo were both heavily involved in Real Madrid’s’ 11th Champions League triumph in the San Siro on Saturday and have been enjoying valuable rest, of around five to six days, ahead of the tournament in France.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has danced his final tango with Paris Saint-Germain. After announcing his departure via Twitter, the Swede signed off with a record-breaking goalscoring tally – his 38 goals is the most netted in a single Ligue 1 season.
Zlatan – who has won 11 league titles (two revoked with Juventus) – will have no shortage of offers from across the globe and has been heavily linked with Manchester United.
But here are all the clubs in contention to sign the charismatic Swede.
Ibrahimovic has publicly discussed his appreciation of Jurgen Klopp in the past, the pair once sharing a screen at the 2014 Ballon d’Or ceremony with the Swede urging the German to sign him. With Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke potentially bidding their farewells to Liverpool soon, Klopp may be tempted to swoop for the experienced forward.
However, Ibrahimovic’s languid style may not quite fit with Klopp’s favoured gegenpressing approach, while the Swede may also prefer a club playing in the Champions League as he is still looking to win the famous trophy for the first time in an otherwise glittering career.
LIKELIHOOD OF MOVE: 6/10
Ibrahimovic nearly joined Arsenal in his youth but famously withdrew from the club’s request for a trial, stating “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions”.
The Gunners have been lacking an out-and-out goalscorer for some time and Zlatan’s consistency inside the 18-yard-box could make him a better option than Arsene Wenger favourite Olivier Giroud.
Wenger rarely signs players above 30 years of age, however, leaving this move more of a long shot.
LIKELIHOOD OF MOVE: 4/10
Ibrahimovic has frequently expressed his undying love for AC Milan, and recently spoke positively again about his stay in northern Italy – calling the Rossoneri “the biggest club” he’s ever played for.
Zlatan is more than well-versed with calcio and played numerous times in the country – also turning out for Milan’s rivals Juventus and Inter, lifting titles with all of the ‘big three’.
Casting sentiments aside, though this move seems unlikely to materialise as Milan vice president Adriano Galliani recently admitted the club would be unable to meet Ibrahimovic’s wage demands.
LIKELIHOOD OF MOVE: 6/10
The Neapolitans’ prized asset Gonzalo Higuain will be a target for a number of clubs this year after, like Ibrahimovic, breaking his division’s scoring record. Should he leave, Napoli will need to sign a new hero for their fans to worship – who better than Zlatan?
Ibrahimovic has always maintained he’d love to end his career in Italy, and with Napoli in the Champions League he would have the option to have one more crack at European football’s biggest prize. The Partenopei love a charismatic forward, too – this is, after all, the club for whom Diego Maradona starred.
LIKELIHOOD OF MOVE: 6/10
Following United’s failure to secure a top-four spot in the Premier League, new Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho will be looking to improve this squad to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Ibrahimovic’s experience could help develop young strikers Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who could learn from a player boasting 154 goals in his past 179 games.
Despite the lack of Champions League football, Ibrahimovic has reportedly indicated his interest in joining the club and reuniting with Mourinho, who worked with the Swede at Inter and whose managerial style and mentality has been publicly lauded by his former player.
LIKELIHOOD OF MOVE: 9/10
The Unites States is a great opportunity for personal exposure for Ibrahimovic, who has successfully marketed his charismatic personality alongside his football prowess over the years. He loves being in the limelight and would immediately become the marquee, marquee player of the MLS.
Zlatan expressed his desire to play in the MLS last summer but while a decision to follow through and move to LA Galaxy or New York Red Bulls (the two clubs most closely linked with his signature) won’t damage his pretty much guaranteed international status, it would quash his dreams of Champions League glory.
LIKELIHOOD OF MOVE: 8/10
Saturday evening’s Champions League final saw 120 minutes of intense action fail to separate Real and Atletico Madrid. In the end, only a penalty shootout could split the sides.
As Atletico right-back Juanfran hit the post with just one round of spot-kicks remaining, the opportunity opened up for Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to seal victory for his team. Unsurprisingly, he made no mistake.
However, there are many who disagree with the format as a way of settling encounters.
With that in mind, today’s #360debate is: Is a penalty shootout the best way to decide a major final?
Think tears streaming down John Terry’s face as the rain poured in Moscow or Roberto Baggio smashing high into the Pasadena sky to hand Brazil the 1994 World Cup.
The majority of fans might come to the conclusion penalties are the cruellest form of deciding a game as since the introduction of the shootout in the 1960s, countless players, managers and fans have suffered collectively at the hands of defeat from 12 yards.
Teams’ destinies have been altered by a single slip or an outstretched hand. But for all the criticism, the shootout remains the ultimate test of mental toughness and just represents another facet of the game players need to work on and improve at. It is a skill.
On Saturday night in the San Siro, Atletico, like they have done all season, scrapped for every single ball and netted a deserved equaliser against Real Madrid.
Defeat on them was harsh because they had proved to be the better side in the second half. The cruelty of their loss though was down to the fact they had been beaten for the second time in three seasons on European club football’s grandest stage by their rivals, not because of the manner of defeat.
There is simply no suitable alternative: replays, golden and silver goal have been experimented with and scrapped, with good reason.
Both silver and golden goals proved unpopular and inadequate as teams were paralysed by fear of failure so would refuse to attack, opting to wait it out for penalties. Five spot-kicks each is a proven, established and, dare we say, popular way to decide matters.
Life’s cruel, and sport simply mirrors that; not everyone deserving of victory goes on to tell tales of success and glory. The idea of gradually removing players to provide more space on the pitch and create more chances is dangerous because it would just increase chances of players already running on empty suffering serious injury.
For the sheer thrill, there remains no more dramatic nor fairer way to win or lose a trophy outside of regulation time.
Real Madrid may have won a trophy on Saturday, but they did not win a football match. All they won was an artificial, contrived game of chance which bore as much relation to the preceding action as Alicia Keys’ bizarre pre-match rendition of ‘Girl on Fire’.
Shootouts are unfair, mindless charades which have nothing to do with football and should be dispensed with. The problem is that they are almost completely divorced from the sport for which they are employed to provide results.
Football is a fast-moving team game, offering a fascinating combination of pre-planned tactics and spontaneous action, where the ultimate aim is to create space for a player to shoot on goal. It is most certainly not about a petrified player walking alone for 40 yards, placing a ball on a mark, running up, kicking it and hoping for the best.
Defendants of shootouts claim there has to be some way of separating tied teams – true – and that nobody has yet come up a better solution than penalties. Rubbish.
Re UCL final penalties: Juanfran shows kicking 1st helps (60/40 advantage). He scored pen to win v PSV in R16; more pressure kicking 2nd— Ben Lyttleton (@benlyt) May 29, 2016
There is the suggestion – proposed by Louis van Gaal – for ‘first goal wins’ extra-time with the twist that both teams must remove one player every five minutes, thus providing more space and making it easier for chances to be created.
Or you could be even more imaginative. How about, for example, giving four attacking players five minutes to score as many goals as possible against four defenders, who are not allowed outside their penalty area?
Nearly anything would be better than the current situation, which is random, technically-limited, and a completely inappropriate way to determine which team is better than the other.
Atletico Madrid lost perhaps the most important game in their history because their right-back, who never takes penalties, missed a penalty. How can that be right?
To be blunt, anyone who thinks there’s no better solution than the lottery of shootouts needs to get their heads checked. It’s just not football.