PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be remembered as one of the game’s greatest players despite never gracing the English Premier League which is the world’s best, according to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho, whose team visit the Ligue 1 champions in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday, managed the Sweden striker at Inter Milan where he said they “connected well” during the 2008-09 season.
Ibrahimovic’s career has included spells at some of the biggest teams in Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands, but he is unlikely to set foot in the Premier League having said that Paris St Germain would be his last big club in Europe.
”The biggest possibility to win the Champions League is with Paris,“ Ibrahimovic, who has never won Europe’s elite club competition, told a news conference. ”This is my last contract in Europe and to win it I must win with Paris.
“The day I leave Paris is the day I go down a level or quit football. I have a contract until 2016.”
Asked about playing in England, he said: “It’s not a question that is brought up because I think first of all it’s impossible to get me to England. If you ask the people behind this (PSG) project, I don’t think they would let me go.”
“The day I stop with football I won’t look back and think I should have played in England,” added Ibrahimovic. “I made stories in other countries but it’s not something I regret.”
Mourinho said later on Tuesday that missing out on playing in the Premier League would not alter the Swede’s status as a world class player.
“I think he has to be where he is happy,” the Chelsea manager told a news conference.
”But in the meantime, I think it’s a pity for him that when he finishes his career having played in the most important countries of football and won titles in the most important countries of football, he didn’t play in the best league of the world.
“It’s a pity but he can be considered as one of the greatest players even if he has never played in the Premier League.”
Mourinho also hailed the 32-year-old Ibrahimovic as a good player to work with, even though they disagreed when the Swede left Inter for Barcelona in 2009.
“I think we connected very well, we never had a problem, the only time we disagreed was obvious because I wanted him to stay and he wanted to leave,” the Portuguese said.
”The difficult persons to work with are the players who don’t want to win, who don’t want to be the best.
”To be his coach was fantastic, there was no problem at all,
we are friends.”
Their friendship will be put to one side on Wednesday as Ibrahimovic represents the French club’s biggest threat at the Parc des Princes.
Mourinho, who will be without injured striker Samuel Eto‘o, said PSG are favourites due to their impressive firepower.
“They have a team full of fantastic attacking players,” he said.
“It’s a team full of fantastic strikers and goalscorers and that is what makes the difference at this level.”
Mourinho made no secret of the players he will task with keeping PSG’s attacking talent under wraps, naming his back four and goalkeeper in advance.
“(Petr) Cech, (Branislav) Ivanovic, (Gary) Cahill, (John) Terry, (Cesar) Azpilicueta,” he said with a big smile.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris