Zlatan Ibrahimovic has never won the Champions League, but this season he had a good opportunity to do so.
With Paris Saint-Germain leading their quarter-final tie 3-1 from the first leg against Chelsea played in France, they were in a brilliant position to go through to the last four. A two-goal cushion gave Laurent Blanc’s side the advantage, but by the end of the second leg at Stamford Bridge in London, PSG had been knocked out of Europe’s premier club competition. Yet again.
Ibrahimovic did not make the squad for that match because of a hamstring injury that he picked up in the first leg, and helplessly watched on as Demba Ba scored three minutes from time to win the contest 2-0 for Chelsea and help Jose Mourinho’s team progress to the semi-finals on away goals rule.
It was a case of ‘what if’ for the former Barcelona striker, who now has to wait at least one more year to get his hands on club football’s most prestigious trophy. However, characteristically, he has hinted that if he were playing, then he would have taken the Ligue 1 champions past Chelsea and into the last four.
‘I was frustrated and I was angry’, the 32-year-old told Telefoot. ‘You always tell yourself what would have happened if I were there. We don’t know, and that is what frustrates me because, for me, we were better than Chelsea. We lacked three minutes in the end and, for me, it was like a warning. I think we learned a lot from this experience and this will help us next year for clinching the Champions League’.
Does Ibrahimovic have a point? Would he have been able to stop Chelsea? Perhaps. It was clear in the second leg that the PSG players were caught out on the big occasion. They were less aggressive and Blanc’s tactics seemed rather passive.
If Ibrahimovic were playing, then he would have been able to at least boost his teammates’ confidence with his mere presence. The Sweden international failed to play a prominent role in the first leg, but his teammates knew that with one moment of magic, he could have made a difference. It is that hope that he brings along with him to a football pitch that could have made PSG stronger in the second leg.
Of course, all this is hypothetical. The fact is that over the two legs, Chelsea won on away goals rule and went through. And that is where the debate should stop.