x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Striker Ibrahimovic seeks challenge

The Inter Milan striker refuses to dampen speculation linking him with a switch to English side Chelsea.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says it is about making a difference to whichever side he wants to join.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic says it is about making a difference to whichever side he wants to join.

The Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has refused to dampen speculation linking him with a switch to English side Chelsea. The Swede, last season's top scorer in Serie A, opened the door to a big-money move earlier this summer, saying he wanted a "new challenge". And his most recent comments will do little to quell exit rumours that the Premier League giants have made an offer of £60million (Dh357m) to the unrelenting Inter. "I am fully aware that Chelsea want to sign me and, of course, it is very flattering," he said.

"They are one of the biggest teams in Europe and the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world." While questions remain over his big-match temperament, the goal return of the highest paid player in Serie A is undeniable. He has hit the net 131 times in 272 games for Malmo, Ajax, Juventus and Inter at club level, and foraged 21 goals in 56 matches for the Swedish national team. However, it is the opportunity to test himself in England, not pocket Roman owner Roman Abramovich's millions, which is enticing the 27-year old.

"Money is not the most important thing, I will base my decision on what's good for me, what suits me," he said. "It is about asking: will I still be able to be special in the league that I am going to and to the team that I am going to? Are my qualities right for the Premier League or not?" Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager now in charge of the Italian champions, will fight hard to keep the San Siro club's crown jewel.

However, Mourinho could be tempted to sacrifice his attacking talisman if Chelsea's offer includes Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and the cash to shape his own Inter side. As he eyes an assault on the Champions League, Mourinho has publicly courted his former Porto and Chelsea players again this summer. Inter's decision on Ibrahimovic will come down to Mourinho and Massimo Moratti, the club president. Moratti, who originally said Abrahimovic would be sold if one of Europe's big clubs met the player's £55million asking price, yesterday backtracked and insisted he was staying. "Zlatan Ibrahimovic is absolutely off the market," he said.

Meanwhile, the new Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce, has completed the singing of Manchester United striker Frazier Campbell. The England Under-21 international is Bruce's first recruit and cost an initial fee of £3.5million. The eventual fee could rise to £6m. "Sunderland are an ambitious club who are going to go forward with the financial backing they have. It was an easy decision to make," said Campbell.

With Hull City among the striker's long-time admirers, Bruce was pleased to have fought off several Premiership clubs. "Frazier's already shown what a fantastic talent he is and we're delighted to have signed such a promising young footballer," he said. emegson@thenational.ae