Zlatan Ibrahimovic will aim to lift one final trophy as the curtain comes down on his record-shattering Paris Saint-Germain career in Saturday’s French Cup final against bitter rivals Marseille.
Ibrahimovic, who obliterated Pauleta’s club goals record earlier this season and now stands on 154 from 179 games, announced he will leave Paris when his contract expires at the end of June after a trophy-laden four years in France.
The Swede will look to fire Laurent Blanc’s side to a second straight domestic treble which would send PSG level with Marseille as 10-time winners of the French Cup.
Ibrahimovic notched his 37th and 38th league goals in Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of Nantes in his final appearance at the Parc des Princes to surpass Argentine striker Carlos Bianchi’s 37-goal mark set during the 1977-78 season.
Having been crowned France’s player of the year for a record third time, before modestly declaring “I came like a king, left like a legend,” Ibrahimovic will look to bow out with his reputation enhanced yet further.
Although the 34-year-old has missed training with a sore calf this week, there is no question the Sweden star will spearhead the PSG attack one final time at the Stade de France.
“It’s a bit of a sad moment, but the project continues. So does Zlatan’s career. You have to go through moments like this to move forward,” said Blanc, reflecting on Ibrahimovic’s profound impact on the club.
“Zlatan has brought the club on enormously, beyond expectations. He has had one of the best seasons as a footballer and it’s been a huge pleasure to work with him.”
Saturday will also mark the final appearance for Gregory van der Wiel, with the Dutch defender set to move on having joined PSG in 2012, the same summer as Ibrahimovic.
Midfielder Marco Verratti underwent surgery on Monday and the Italy international will not only miss the final but his country’s Euro 2016 campaign as a result.
– Chance for salvation –
For Marseille, who have gone 27 years since their last French Cup title, Saturday’s showdown is a chance to salvage what has been nothing short of a catastrophic season.
The club never recovered from the bombshell departure of Marcelo Bielsa in August and finished 13th, their lowest position since the 2000-01 season, having embarked on an unwanted record of 15 home games without a win.
However, winger Romain Alessandrini believes taking on the French champions can bring the best out of an underperforming OM side.
“We’re up against a very good PSG team that is used to winning trophies, so we have nothing to lose,” Alessandrini, who was part of the Rennes side beaten 2-0 by Guingamp in the 2014 final, told OM.net.
“It’s up to us to do everything to win this match, to enjoy it and to bring the cup back to Marseille.
“There’s an eternal rivalry between the two clubs. It’s going to be rather intense to say the least. If we win, it’ll be an incredible day for us.
“Our best two matches this season, despite the results, were against PSG so I think it’ll a high quality match.”
Marseille could welcome back Georges-Kevin Nkoudou after the winger recently returned to training following a thigh injury picked up in last month’s 1-0 semi-final victory over Sochaux.