The news the football world has waited for all summer is finally here. No, Sepp Blatter hasn't been arrested yet -- Paris Saint-Germain has told Zlatan Ibrahimovic he can find himself a new club. That's been widely expected to happen with just one year left on his contract, but now Zlatan The Great And Mighty is officially on the transfer market, putting big clubs around Europe on high alert.
But who's actually got both the resources to sign Zlatan at his sky-high wage level and the desire to both utilize him and put up with the drama that inevitably crops up around him? Zlatan is an incredible talent to be sure, but there's always a certain level of tension that his presence creates, thanks to occasional on-the-pitch temper flares, as well as the unending media circus around him off the pitch.
Between teams Zlatan has already been with where the bridges are burned and teams who just wouldn't want to bother, there's not a lot of options left for the Swedish international where he'd have a title shot and not have to take much, if any, of a pay cut. That makes it easy to list out all the choices, and rank them in order of how realistic it is to happen, so let's do exactly that.
1. Real Madrid
The hottest rumors around Zlatan right now are linking him to Manchester United or Arsenal, but don't sleep on Real Madrid. Florentino Perez loves to bring in big-name stars, and there aren't many bigger than Zlatan. They could easily sell off Karim Benzema to Arsenal at long last and bring in Ibrahimovic, and seeing what he and Cristiano Ronaldo do in attack should be downright fascinating. Both players are big-time alpha dogs on the pitch, and they'd either clash in hilariously dramatic fashion, or rip all of Europe a new one as an unstoppable force.
Of course, the potential for drama doesn't just stop with Zlatan and Ronaldo -- his fiery personality mixing with the desire for absolute control that manager Rafa Benitez has could be quite entertaining. Whether Real Madrid buying Zlatan goes well or poorly, you can guarantee one form of fireworks or another at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Manchester would be very motivated to add Ibrahimovic if they can, because they desperately need another option up top. Wayne Rooney has been poor in United's early matches, and Louis Van Gaal still seems slow to trust Javier Hernandez, so another high-quality presence at striker is an absolute must. Adding Zlatan would be interesting, though, because by all accounts he and Van Gaal didn't exactly get along when they were at Ajax, and Ibrahimovic himself recently said that "there would be a fight" if they had to co-exist again -- but he also said that he loves fighting, so that may be the ticket.
It'd also be worth it for Manchester to sign Ibrahimovic solely so we can see him give Rooney dirty looks and curse under his breath when United's captain fails to make a run or has his umpteenth hilariously heavy touch of the match.
3. AC Milan
Ibrahimovic enjoyed some of his best playing days wearing the rossoneri shirt, and Milan are desperate to bring him back for another go. They already spent a large chunk of time trying to bring him in this summer before settling for Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano, but if they think they can really add Zlatan now, they'll do it in a heartbeat.
The top question, however, is whether they should sign Zlatan -- hint: the answer is "probably not because that's stupidly expensive for a non-competitive team" -- followed closely by whether Zlatan would want to. He'd certainly enjoy a San Siro return, but he'd also enjoy winning league titles and playing in the Champions League, something Milan simply cannot offer him right now. He'd certainly push them closer to being back in the Serie A title hunt and chasing a Champions League spot, but Milan need a lot more overall improvement than Zlatan can give them on his own before they're at that level.
Currently touted as one of the two English teams chasing Zlatan the hardest, Arsenal make a lot of sense for the big Swede if they can't pry Benzema out of Real Madrid's clutches. Even closing in on 34 years old, he offers them their long sought-after upgrade over Olivier Giroud and a big increase in attacking firepower heading into the long slog of the Premier League season -- and their Champions League campaign.
Zlatan seems like he could actually fit in fairly well with Arsenal's players, but how his strong personality would mesh with Arsene Wenger and his generally more reserved approach to things is a bit of a mystery. Still, he could help push Arsenal a lot closer to Chelsea and Manchester City in the EPL title race, and that's something Zlatan would thoroughly enjoy being a part of.
City are well-stocked at striker and probably done spending on significant pieces this summer, but you can never quite count them out whenever a big star comes available. They can absorb Zlatan's wages with ease, so if they decide that adding Ibrahimovic is what will pull them clear of Chelsea in the title race, they'll chase him without hesitation.
Working Ibrahimovic into that star-studded side could be a challenge, with Kun Aguero, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Wilfried Bony, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas already competing for minutes in Manchester's attack. Just watching that delicate balancing act unfold might be worth them snapping Zlatan up on its own.
Of course, if Zlatan wants to be part of the title race in England, he could always join the defending champions and early favorites to win it again this season. Chelsea are on the lookout for another high-quality striker thanks to the frequent muscle strains, pulls and tears that Diego Costa keeps suffering in his legs, and Zlatan would fit the bill wonderfully. Chelsea are also running a net profit in the transfer market this summer in addition to their already-existent vast wealth, so they wouldn't even blink at adding his wages and paying a transfer fee.
It'd also be fun to see what happens when Zlatan and Jose Mourinho almost-inevitably butt heads at some point along the way. That'd be worth a pay-per-view buy to watch go down. However, with rumors emerging that Chelsea are going to sign Pedro from Barcelona, this looks highly unlikely.
7. Major League Soccer
There's been on-again-off-again rumors of Zlatan taking his game to America for a few years now, with the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy and both New York teams linked to him at various times. None of those sides really have the ability to add him right now, though, with all their Designated Player slots filled and none of the teams seeming to have enough Targeted Allocation Money left to free one up -- not to mention that we're now outside the MLS international transfer window now, though MLS could likely come up with a new rule to work around either issue.
Still, it's hard to see Zlatan moving across the Atlantic right now. It'd be a huge coup for MLS if he did, but with Zlatan still able to contribute at a high level for a competitive Champions League-level team, there's no reason for him to leave yet. Maybe in another year or two, but not now.
8. Somewhere else
There's a handful of other clubs and leagues who could throw ridiculous amounts of money at Zlatan, most notably some of the uber-rich clubs in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or future World Cup hosts, Qatar. Al-Ahli, Al-Ain, Al Nassr or Al Sadd are all clubs you could see try to make a push to sign Ibrahimovic, but the fact is that there is zero reason for him to head to one of those glamour leagues right now. Zlatan likes money, sure, but he also likes to compete, and these teams can't even offer him a level of competition equivalent to MLS right now. If he won't go to America, he certainly won't go to the Middle East.