Paris Saint-Germain should have sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Michael Regan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is playing at the top of his game, but he's also holding Paris Saint-Germain back.

Like Kanye West, Zlatan Ibrahimovic knows he has reached the pinnacle of his profession because he has achieved the number one honour among all of his colleagues: he is the most likely person to see words attributed to him that he never said. On the pitch, he's not doing too badly either. Many talk about him as an equal to anybody else in his position, yet while the previous 'can't do it in Europe' and 'showpony' slurs are now confirmed as myths, there's still the question of whether Paris Saint-Germain shouldn't have sold him in the summer.

Ibrahimovic is of course, a luxury player. His talents are numerous, but putting in a hard defensive shift is not one of them. There's nothing wrong with being a luxury player, but he used to play up front alone. Now, PSG have a better option there in Edinson Cavani, and thus have to find a way to play both at the same time.

The problems were evident in the club's 2-2 draw away at Saint-Etienne at the weekend. Both goals conceded came from defensive errors, the second a contender for the most hilarious mistake of the season, but PSG only managed to score their two goals after Fabien Lemoine received a ridiculous red card for the crime of being elbowed in the face. Brandao had also missed two golden chances, as PSG struggled to give the kind of assured, confident control over the game that champions ought to.

Asking PSG fans what their best possible team would be if the Champions League final were being played tomorrow, the answers will vary slightly, but most will choose the same thing. A 4-3-3, with Edinson Cavani on the right. If you have a case for your best team to be the right option, and it includes your best player played well out of position, then something is clearly wrong with the balance of your squad.

The simple fact is that most strikers struggle and labour to play without a designated partner, be it a midfielder, striker, or wingers solely dedicated to do the job. When players are allocated in such a way, however, they struggle to influence the rest of the pitch. Edinson Cavani belongs to a very rare breed of striker in that he is blessed with the right talents to ensure that he simply poses too much danger for one centre-back to adequately cover him. He belongs to an elite trio that comprises himself, Robin van Persie and Falcao, the three best in the world in their position. He is, simply, unupgradable. The club has something that Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City do not.

For a 4-4-2 - and a real one, with two proper strikers, not like the half-4-5-1s deployed by clubs who have their second striker virtually acting as a midfielder - to work, you need a good side - two midfielders who won't be overpowered, wingers who can contribute to both sides of the game, and a solid defence. PSG have none of these things. Marco Verratti is too lightweight and ineffective when his side do not have the ball, Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura likewise, and Marquinhos is prone to defensive errors while the less said about the side's fullbacks, the better.

Selling Ibrahimovic and using the money to buy fullbacks would have been a far better use of the club's transfer window, but the lack of decent players in that position also robs PSG of the only effective option if they had decided to keep the Swede, by playing three at the back. Yet the attraction to buy Cavani was obvious - he is so good that the decision to buy him could not have been turned up - so it's the decision to keep Ibrahimovic that remains the most baffling.

The worry for PSG fans should be that there appears to be either incompetence or a lack of communication in organising who the club should be buying and where they should play. Such a problem has cost Real Madrid untold riches and trophies down the years, and it looks like the champions could be following the same path. Buying the best players in the world is pointless unless you're also prepared to use them properly.

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