The Telegraph
Friday , May 16 , 2014
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Europeans will find it tough, says Ibra


New Delhi: Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Thursday virtually threw a challenge to superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, saying their greatness would only be proved decisively during the World Cup in Brazil.

“No one in particular could be called as the world’s best player now. Several players are doing very well. Ronaldo, Messi… Even Suarez… To name a few are exceptional performers. But the decisive moment will come in the World Cup… It would all depend upon how well they perform for their respective countries in Brazil. There you will have the final answer,” said the Sweden and Paris Saint-Germain star.

The striker, who will miss the World Cup because of Sweden’s failure to qualify for the final rounds, said this during a telephonic media conference.

Ibrahimovic, however, said that hosts Brazil would start as overwhelming favourites to win the World Cup.

“I think Brazil have a strong chance of winning the World Cup this time… Absolutely. It will be very difficult for European nations to perform well in South American conditions. Brazil will definitely have the home advantage,” he said.

PSG coach Laurent Blanc, who, as a footballer, played an important role in France’s World Cup triumph in 1998, though, was not ready to dismiss the European teams. “Teams like Spain and Brazil are more experienced. France are not that experienced… But then, in 1998, we were never the favourites. Yet, we won the title,” he pointed out.

Ibrahimovic, on the other hand, admitted that not being able to play the World Cup was a painful blow to him. “It was personally a very difficult time for me,” he said.

“At the same time, it now gives me the opportunity to train much harder and keep myself fit for the next season and give it my best shot. All my Brazilian teammates (in PSG side) want me to come there… I would definitely follow the World Cup and Brazil’s Maxwell.”

Despite not being able to play in the World Cup, Ibrahimovic considers himself a fairly-successful player. “I haven’t won the Champions League yet… I would like to win it. That’s not easy. Still, if I stop playing tomorrow, I will have 22 trophies in my cabinet. I will be happy and will call myself a fairly successful footballer,” he said.

The Swede did not agree to the suggestion that his team’s loss against Portugal in the World Cup play-off was a personal defeat for him against Cristiano Ronaldo. “The focus was on the teams, not individuals,” he said. “We did our best on the field but in the end, Portugal won. It happened because Ronaldo’s team was stronger than ours. That’s all.”

Asked whether he was planning to play the next World Cup, Ibrahimovic, 32, laughed.

“As of now, I am just enjoying the moment and trying to play some good football. I have got another two years’ contract with PSG… Post that, I will take a call whether I want to continue playing in Europe or not.”

Known for scoring spectacular goals, Ibrahimovic, who won league titles for Ajax in the Netherlands, AC Milan in Italy, Barcelona in Spain and now PSG in France, said it would be difficult for him to explain the reasons behind his amazing strikes.