WASHINGTON — The subject of this year’s biggest player transfer on the world scene will make his debut for his new club at RFK Stadium on Saturday night against D.C. United (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer at 10 pm ET).
That would be Paris Saint-Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a league champion in three different nations and perhaps the most complete striker on earth, who joined his new teammates earlier this week after PSG’s Qatari ownership splashed out a reported $25 million to make him their latest, greatest transfer buy.
“Zlatan will start, yes,” said PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti on Friday as his squad prepared to close out their participation in the 2012 Herbalife World Football Challenge. “He is not ready for 90 minutes, but nobody [on the team] is ready for 90 minutes and so we have all the players without problem.
“Zlatan trained for three days, he didn’t have a problem, he trained well, professional. He’s going to play tomorrow for [his] first game. I think that we are excited for him – not just for him, but everyone wants to see him play.”
Tall, strong and quick, blessed with a feather-soft first touch and a knack for the spectacular, Ibrahimovic is known for his street-smart attitude, but on Friday he was calm and soft-spoken.
“It’s good for me,” he said of his brief time with the squad, having joined late due to mandatory vacation time imposed by UEFA for players taking part in the European Championship. “So far, so good. Everything is positive, waiting every day for the trainings and just to play football and come in shape physically.”
Ancelotti said that Ibrahimovic remains short of full match fitness and will likely log 45 minutes at most – yet he also noted that “even if Ibrahimovic is not 100 percent, he can play well.” Ibra will wear no. 18 against United, though he gave the impression that he’s still gunning to acquire his preferred No. 9 from its current owner at PSG, Guillaume Hoarau.
And when asked directly, the man himself admitted that MLS might someday become a future destination for him.
“You never know,” said the Swedish international. “At the moment I’m in France and I want to enjoy my time there. In the future it's a big possibility, to come to MLS and to play my game here, and hopefully it will happen. You never know.”
PSG doesn’t quite have the reputation of previous Ibrahimovic stops like AC Milan and FC Barcelona, European megaclubs which have made North American tours an annual summer event. The Paris club plans on playing well enough to change that fact in the very near future, however, and Ancelotti was full of praise for both the hospitality and the preseason tests presented by the United States.
“D.C. United is one of the best teams in [MLS],” said Ancelotti. “I think that the American league in general is good, because they buy a lot of players from Europe and I think that improves the quality of play. I think tomorrow for us will be tough, because we are in preseason and D.C. United uses dynamic play.
“It’s important for us to play this kind of game, against a team [that is] physically good, because we have to improve our condition. It’s good to find a team that is strong to play against.”