"The tougher the games you play, the better you become," said Zlatan Ibrahimović as Paris Saint-Germain bid to get a measure of their European standing against Chelsea FC.
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"The tougher the games you play, the better you become," shrugged Zlatan Ibrahimović as he looked forward to Paris Saint-Germain's quarter-final with Chelsea FC. "I'm here to help Paris get the football team they deserve."
The poster boy for the footballing revolution taking place at the Parc des Princes, the 32-year-old's star quality and nose for goal have propelled Laurent Blanc's side towards a second successive Ligue 1 title – and already the UEFA Champions League's last eight. However, while he is among the biggest names in European soccer, the Swedish international acknowledged that his team are greenhorns compared with José Mourinho's Chelsea.
"Chelsea are the super favourites," the forward told reporters ahead of Wednesday's first-leg visit of Chelsea. "We have nothing to lose – Chelsea are a big team. We have a project which has been going on for two years, we're having a good season and everything we achieve now is a bonus. Chelsea have been implementing their project for ten years and they have already won the [UEFA] Champions League and the [UEFA] Europa League."
Having played under Mourinho at FC Internazionale Milano, Ibrahimović said he had "a good relationship" with the coach and was excited about challenging himself against the Portuguese's charges. "This match against Chelsea is a good test for us, but this doesn't mean the other games were easy," he said. "This is the way to improve: the tougher the games you play, the better you become."
However, for all of his club's relative inexperience in European terms, Ibrahimović accepted he may never have a better opportunity to reach the final than now. "My best chance to win the competition is as a Paris player, because this will be my last big contract in Europe," he noted, adding: "This has been my best season yet. I'm enjoying my football. I'm here to help Paris get the football team they deserve."
With ten goals from the group stage onwards – in addition to 25 strikes in Ligue 1 – only Real Madrid CF's 13-goal Cristiano Ronaldo has outscored Ibrahimović this term. He would not be drawn on whether he fancied himself as a champion of Europe, but gently dismissed the idea that the fact he had never played in England was a major gap on his CV. "I don't think I'd go to an English club, especially since I don't think Paris would let me," he joked. "I'm happy with my career choices. I have great respect for the Premier League, but I won't regret not having played in it at the end of my career."
Claiming a major English scalp would go a long way towards silencing such chatter. "Games like this make strong statements as to where we are compared with the other top teams," Ibrahimović explained.