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Monday, April 1, 2013
Busquets: Zlatan could still be at Barca

Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Sergio Busquets believes Zlatan Ibrahimovic might have been lining up for Barcelona rather than facing them with Paris Saint-Germain in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final had the Sweden international stuck it out in Spain.

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Ibrahimovic, 31, left the Camp Nou after a turbulent maiden 2009-10 season, joining AC Milan on loan after a well-documented falling out with then Barca coach Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola's decision to utilise Lionel Messi as a central striker forced the PSG man to the sidelines, but Busquets, 24, told Le Parisien that Ibrahimovic could have ridden out the storm.

"In personal terms, Ibra is a great guy. He's a serious guy, who makes fun of you when you least expect it. I really had a great year with him. In sporting terms, it's clear he wasn't able to give the best of himself. You could sense he was unhappy. The coach didn't count on him anymore, he wanted to change the system and put Messi through the middle of the attack," Busquets said.

"But Zlatan wasn't bad when he was with us. He could have stayed at Barca. An Ibra-Messi tandem would have been marvellous, but history decided otherwise. In the dressing-room, I never saw Zlatan get annoyed with [Carles] Puyol, Xavi [Hernandez] or [Andres] Iniesta. Perhaps we had a different dressing room to the ones he'd been used to or the one at PSG."

Having played with Ibrahimovic and won all there is to win in the professional game, Busquets is unlikely to be overawed by the occasion when Tito Vilanova's side step out at the Parc des Princes for Tuesday's first-leg tie.

However, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 winner admits he used to worship one PSG player in David Beckham, even if he has not followed the veteran midfielder's career too closely of late.

"I saw PSG-Marseille in the Coupe de France. Beckham's position surprised me. He virtually played in my position that day. He was the one directing play, but I had the impression he was more out on the right," he said. "At 37, his best years are behind him, but he's still Beckham: with one move, one set-piece, he can be dangerous. I was 11 years old when he won the Champions League against Bayern Munich. I was at the Camp Nou. It was unforgettable. He was so good with Manchester United."

While Beckham is almost certain not to have a place in PSG's starting XI, the opposite is true for Busquets, who has developed into a vital cog in Barcelona's impressive machine.

While Messi and international team-mates Xavi and Iniesta are swamped with plaudits, Busquets is happy to work tirelessly in the shadows.

"Messi is really unpredictable. He's head-and-shoulders above everyone. Undeniably," he said. "It's great playing alongside Xavi and Iniesta because you know that you're always going to get the ball cleanly from them. My role is to protect them. In just a few seconds, I have to calculate the distance, position myself two metres further up the pitch, take a step back. But all of that is done in training, we talk a lot about tactics. In general, I like to talk, get players back in position."




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