‘The legend can still deliver’, warns Zlatan
PARIS: Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sunday warned Europe that “the legend can still deliver” as the Sweden captain prepares to make his mark on Euro 2016.
The 34-year-old, who has left Paris Saint-Germain after a prolific four-year spell, is back in the French capital for Monday’s European Championship Group E opener against the Republic of Ireland.
Sweden’s hopes of progressing from a group also containing Italy and Belgium rest largely on the brilliance of Ibrahimovic, who scored 11 times in the qualifying campaign.
When asked if he felt now was the time for him to dominate a major international tournament, he replied: “I have been dominating wherever I go. I have no issue about that.
“I am very confident. I go into the tournament with a strong season behind me and I am here in France, where I have been living for the last few years, to enjoy,” the told a press conference at the Stade de France.
“I feel I am getting better and better with every year that passes.
“What I do every day is play football. You have to have the hunger to become a better player, to learn new things and work hard on the pitch.
“If you want it you are able to do it. I know what I want and I know I am going to do it.
“The legend can still deliver,” he added.
When announcing his departure from PSG last month, Ibrahimovic said he “came like a king, left like a legend”. He will leave as PSG’s all-time record goal-scorer and having won 12 trophies at the Parc des Princes.
Monday’s game against Ireland will be played at the same ground where Ibrahimovic made his last appearance for PSG in their French Cup final win against Marseille three weeks ago.
He scored 50 goals in all competitions in his final, prolific campaign at PSG and, with his contract up, a move to Manchester United is on the cards.
Ibrahimovic insisted on Sunday that “there is nothing to say” about that possible switch, with his focus for now firmly on the Euros.
As captain of a team otherwise lacking in star quality, Ibrahimovic, set to play in his fourth European Championship, admits there is great responsibility on his shoulders.
“There are many new players in the group. We always have pressure and probably I have the greatest pressure on my shoulders,” he said.
“I want to take the pressure off the team. I am used to it. I want them to enjoy it, to go out and play. That is the only thing you can do.
“There is no greater honour than playing a European Championship for your country, so I am sure all players will give 200 percent for their country,” added the forward who, by scoring on Monday, will get ahead of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo to become the first player to find the net in four separate European Championships.