Ibrahimovic: Does He Need to Win the Champions League for His Own Reputation?

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2014

Paris Saint Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, right, of Sweden celebrates with teammates after scoring against Bordeaux during their French League One soccer match, Friday Jan. 31, 2014, at Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Associated Press

In years to come, young children will ask their grandparents about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They will have watched his assorted flicks, tricks and outrageous goals on YouTube. They will have read his assorted quotes and chuckled, they will have looked at his long list of honours, and they will ask, "What was Zlatan like, grandpappy? Did you see him play, grandmammy?"

The grandparents will chuckle, look at each other and say, "Well, little Jimmy, there was once a time when people in England said he was an overrated show pony who did nothing in the big games. I know, I know."

Ibrahimovic is now regarded as one of the finest players in the world. Perhaps in another era his extraordinary talents and achievements would have been given regard in even loftier terms, but he has had the misfortune of having his peak years coincide with those of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Perhaps even his personality counts against him, particularly in England, a country where sportsmen are more admired if they are humble, rather than if they are genuinely talented and/or achieve success.

Maybe Ibrahimovic would be taken more seriously if he had won the Champions League.

He has just about every other domestic medal to his name, including that extraordinary run of winning the league title at five different clubs in three countries nine seasons running (if you include the titles taken away by Juventus in the Calciopoli which he most certainly does), plus any number of individual awards.

But Europe's most prestigious competition still eludes him.

It's clearly pretty important to him. Ibrahimovic spoke to Alfredo Rodriguez of UEFA.com recently about winning Europe's top prize:

I think it would mean a lot. If we can get further than the quarter-finals this year it would be a big step for us. This project has been ongoing for two years and I've been here for one and a half – it is developing.

We have a team with a lot of potential and high quality and I think the collective part has grown a lot this year.

There is of course still time.

Ibrahimovic's Paris St-Germain side are obviously walking away with the French Ligue 1 title, currently five points clear of fellow big-spenders Monaco, having lost just once this season.

While they are a young club in terms of Champions League experience, they do have players who have played at the very highest level, and they have a rather favourable draw in the first knockout round. They face Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday, and while Sami Hyypia's side are second in the Bundesliga, playing them is preferable to any number of the Spanish, English, Italian or German behemoths still left in the competition.

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Ibrahimovic is currently 32, so perhaps doesn't have too many more cracks at the big one. It's possible his reputation will endure even if he doesn't win the Champions League. After all, as the extensive tributes to Tom Finney, who never won a major title of any description, have shown this week, medals do not necessarily damage a footballer's standing.

Still, when players like Djimi Traore, Carsten Jancker and Fernando Torres have Champions League winners medals, it seems criminal that Ibrahimovic does not.