Paris Saint-Germain’s squad certainly seems to be ducking the limelight this week as they engage in closed, two-a-day training sessions at Princeton University ahead of this weekend’s friendly against D.C. United at RFK Stadium.
But the cash-flush French club remains firmly planted in global headlines as high-profile signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic touched down in New Jersey to join his new teammates on Tuesday afternoon – and barring any unforeseen injury concerns, it looks as though the Swedish striker will make his PSG debut against MLS opposition in the nation’s capital on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“He will start to train this afternoon,” said PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti of Ibrahimovic in a media conference call on Tuesday. “For the game on Saturday, I think that we have to check his physical condition, and if there are no problems maybe he can play 40, 45 minutes.”
Having won league championships at nearly every stop on a glittering club career which has taken him to massive clubs in Holland, Italy, Spain and now France, “Ibra” can now also claim to be the most expensive player in history, having commanded some €180 million in total transfer fees over the past 12 years after PSG completed a stunning double transfer to acquire him and defender Thiago Silva from AC Milan last week.
He is being eagerly welcomed at PSG not only for his sublime attacking skills, but the intensity and competitiveness which Ancelotti believes can help the Parisian club capture its first Ligue 1 title in nearly a decade while also mounting a sustained challenge in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League.
“We bought Ibrahimovic because he’s a fantastic player, of course, because he has a lot of experience, because he has a really strong personality, character,” said Ancelotti. “We needed to have a striker with these characteristics and with this ability. Ibrahimovic can help the team, the club improve and be competitive in Europe.”
The legendary Italian manager also praised another new signing, Argentinean attacker Ezequiel Lavezzi, as well as the ever-increasing quality of Major League Soccer, which he said was “improving quickly” and might lead to PSG interest in the league's best.
But his most detailed answer concerned Javier Pastore, another Argentine talent who Ancelotti believes is primed for a breakout second season in France after PSG made him their showcase signing last year.
“Pastore has started really well this preseason,” said Ancelotti. “He’s working really hard. We are trying to change a little bit his position on the pitch. Last year he played more offensive and this year we decided to try to play him as a midfielder, more in the middle of the pitch. He is showing very good quality in that position.
“Last year he arrived in a new position, a new championship in a new country, and for him it was not easy to find the right way to do his best. But this season will be different and I think he will be one of the most important players for PSG.”
After opening their US tour by bringing soccer back to Yankee Stadium in grand fashion with Sunday’s 1-1 draw against European champions Chelsea in New York City, PSG are spending most of the week in quiet Princeton before they decamp to Washington on Friday.
Ancelotti will lead his charges through one training session at RFK before facing off against D.C. United on Saturday evening.