Every morning, Zlatan Ibrahimovic wakes up and decides to not cut his ponytail.
Club hierarchy has grumbled publicly (Silvio Berlusconi has a grandfatherly knack for complaining when those in his team aren't groomed as he'd hope), but sometimes change is hard.
So when Paris Saint-Germain asked him real nice like to move to France, Ibrahimovic twirled his mustache and gave a long icy glare.
"Today, I will see Leonardo but I don’t want to," the 30-year-old's agent, Mino Raiola, harrumphed to sportmediaset.it. He called the gulf between the two parties as far as China is from the United States and used a convoluted metaphor about buying the Mona Lisa.
"PSG has to convince itself that with Zlatan it is acquiring the best."
Ibrahimovic himself needs no convincing. His ego approaches Nicholas Bendtner levels, and he recently released a wildly entertaining autobiography called "I, Zlatan." This summer he bought an island on Lake Malren, west of Stockholm, with 500 hectares of hunting ground.
The Italian papers have Milan similarly hunting for replacements, with the favorites including one of the Manchester City strikers (take your pick, with vice president Adriano Galliani and coach Maximiliano Allegri allegedly preferring different options). No matter how tenacious the scouting, all the mooted replacements will feel like downgrades.
"You can't say 'I'll sell Silva and buy a similar player'," Alessandro Nesta told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "There are no similar players around, only worse ones. The same with Ibrahimovic."
Allegri and Milan will have to dramatically alter the personality and system of the team to remain competitive. Antonio Cassano warned when PSG flirted with Thiago Silva earlier in the transfer window that losing the Brazilian defender was like losing 50 percent of the team. Here's the thing – essentially half the squad has left already.
You could make a competitive starting XI from the guys who packed their lockers and moved out of Milanello: Flavio Roma, Djamel Mesbah, Thiago Silva, Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta, Alberto Aquilani, Mark van Bommel, Rino Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Ibrahimovic and Filippo Inzaghi.
Berlusconi essentially lobbed a concussion grenade into the locker room and money was a big reason why.
"Yes, I've sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG," he told Sky Sport 24. "We will save 150 million euros (about $183 million) over two years."
He's factoring wages into the reported 62 million euro combined bid. The 75-year-old, besides leaving his post as Italian Prime Minister, has taken several key business hits recently. Nesta pointed out that after a quarter century of investment, Berlusconi should be forgiven taking one summer off from running up his tab.
A slightly more sinister explanation suggests that, should Berlusconi run for election again, selling his two best players now would finance a mega-transfer in a year, just in time to give him a tidy boost in the polls. Using Milan to influence political morale is certainly no novelty for the owner of Mediaset.
Change can be hard.
Paris is finding that out. The club was turned down after high-profile chases of Carlos Tevez, Kaka and David Beckham. Italy has figured that out, slipping behind Germany on the UEFA coefficient scale and now losing its best players to France. Milan, which essentially has to rebuild the roster from scratch, certainly knows a thing or two about that. Fans everywhere are increasingly aggrieved that – after fleecing enough friends and pillaging enough couch cushions for loose coins – the nouveau riche could potentially finance the Mona Lisa.
But the take in Sweden is most interesting. On the one hand, AIK pulled out of a preseason friendly with Milan, worried that the absence of Ibrahimovic would upset those who bought tickets before a potential sale. Then there is the sentiment of Sweden national team fans. Sweden, captained by Ibrahimovic, underperformed at Euro 2012, only winning a game once the team couldn't progress out of the group.
One sign held aloft by Sweden fans at Euro 2012 read: "I would trade Zlatan for Emma Watson." See: At least one group of brave souls doesn't dread an altered future.
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