By Mark Doyle
Just under six weeks ago, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s agent, Mino Raiola, was asked if his client would still be at Paris Saint-Germain next season. "At this moment, I'd say yes... But you never know how things will look tomorrow,” the Italian added coyly, thus facilitating the creation of an atmosphere of uncertainty in the French capital that shows no sign of abating any time soon.
Ibrahimovic only arrived at Parc des Princes last summer and is coming off what he freely admits was one of the best seasons of his career as the Swede led PSG to Ligue 1 glory with 30 goals - a record return for the 31-year-old.
However, since the turn of the year, speculation has started to intensify that Ibrahimovic’s wife, Helena, has failed to settle in Paris and that the striker is unhappy with the standard of football in France.
|IBRAHIMOVIC'S CAREER STATS
|AC Milan (10-12)||61||42|
On April 25, it was confirmed that Manchester City had put Ibrahimovic’s name on a long-list of strikers they were considering signing this summer.
Strangely enough, Raiola then appeared to rule out a move away from PSG, telling Sky Sport Italia: "The commercial design of the club is based on his signing and they have no intention of selling him. For now, he stays."
However, Ibra appeared in two minds. On May 13 he was unequivocal in his commitment to his current employers during an interview with L'Equipe: "I am a professional and will honour my contract."
Nind days later, though, he was telling La Gazzetta dello Sport how much he missed Italy, his "second home".
"Will I stay at PSG? We'll see... All the times that I have said that I would be staying at a club, at the end I changed clubs. This time I am not going to say anything," before immediately saying: "I still have two more years left on my contract but anything can happen."
Bizarrely, the prospect of Ibra moving back to Serie A seemed to come as quite a shock to Raiola, who told the same Italian paper earlier this week: "A return to Italy is out of the question. He stays at PSG.
"I heard he was going to break his contract but that is an invention of the media. He never told me that."
That Raiola does not appear to know exactly what his client is thinking has only added to the sense of utter confusion regarding the player’s future.
However, as things stand, it is difficult to foresee a return to Italy simply because no side in Serie A can afford Ibrahimovic. He is currently earning €14 million a year after tax, which is a collossal salary even for PSG, let alone Italy's cash-strapped clubs.
Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon, Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi and former Inter playmaker Wesley Sneijder (who departed in January) were the highest earns in Serie A last season, on €6m, which is a very respectable figure, yet less than half of the size of Ibrahmovic's current wage packet.
|THE VIEW FROM FRANCE
“From a French perspective, there is so much uncertainty regarding Ibrahimovic. One day he says he will stay; the next he says he’s not sure.
"He has assured us that his future is not dependent on that of Ancelotti but, on the other hand, he has also said that he is very attached to the Italian coach.
"Personally, I think he will stay unless Leonardo became coach, given he does not have a good relationship with the Brazilian.
"For PSG, though, Ibra is under contract and must not leave. They still intend to build their entire sporting project around the Swede, so not only do PSG have no need to sell him, they also have no desire to sell him.
"Yes, Ibra has repeatedly expressed his love of Italy, and if he were to leave, I imagine he’d go back. But I just don’t think it will happen. I firmly believe Zlatan will still be with PSG next season.”
- Naim Beneddra | Goal France
Therefore, it is highly improbable that Ibrahimovic will end up back in Serie A next season.
So, with Real Madrid pursuing Edinson Cavani, bridges having been well and truly burned with Barcelona and new Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola, and little talk of the nouveau riche of Anzhi Makhachkala or Monaco entering the fray, Ibahimovic's only other possible destination is England.
However, not one of the Premier League's elite have made signing Swede a priority.
Ibrahimovic is only on a long-list of Man City targets. Director of football Txiki Begiristain signed the striker for Barcelona, while Raiola has close ties with the bigwigs at the Etihad, but City's top target remains Cavani.
Ibrahimovic has been considered as a possible alternative but City's interest has wavered following the dismissal of former coach Roberto Mancini, who enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the player during their time together at Inter.
We know that Chelsea are in the market for a striker but, in terms of English interest, it's limited to Man City at this stage and even they are unlikely to make a move in light of Mancini's exit and Ibrahimovic's exorbitant wage demands.
Consequently, as things currently stand, the enigmatic attacker will still be at PSG next season. Of course, you never know how things will look tomorrow ...