Marc Ingla, a former Barcelona director who now occupies a similar role at Ligue 1’s Lille, believes there was a “little friction” between Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Catalonia, hence the latter lasting just a year at Camp Nou.
The gangly Swede fashioned 16 goals over 29 appearances en route to top spot in La Liga, but his relative lack of mobility – when compared to the rest of Pep Guardiola’s breathless ranks – was widely deemed detrimental to the side’s work.
In that campaign, Barca was eliminated from the last 16 of the Copa del Rey by Sevilla, and lost 3-2 on aggregate to Inter Milan in their Champions League semi-final.
“Why did Zlatan not get on at Barcelona?” Ingla told Telefoot, with translation from ESPN FC’s Samuel Marsden. “He’s a beast, a machine. But he was next to another machine, a smaller one (laughs).
“He was too static and Messi perhaps needed more space. Zlatan occupied too much. There was a little friction, I think.”
Ibrahimovic was shipped on loan to AC Milan in 2011, and made a permanent switch to the Italian powerhouse a year later. Since he was deemed surplus to requirements by Guardiola, the 35-year-old has been less than complimentary about the trophy-laden Spanish manager.
“Guardiola is a fantastic coach. But as a human? He is a coward. He is no man,” Ibrahimovic told Der Spiegel in 2013, as reported by ESPN FC.
“I told him that if I don’t fit here, you have to please tell me that. But all I got was sweet talk: ‘Ibra you are a super player, you do everything right.’ But I still ended up on the bench.”
The veteran striker has nabbed 15 strikes and four assists in 24 Premier League outings for Manchester United this term.
The further the Champions League progresses, the less predictable it becomes.
The vetting begins early as teams with the slimmest of odds for European glory gradually bow out once the group stage concludes.
Surprises aren’t uncommon at that point, but sustained success is much tougher to achieve over the duration of a six-match qualifying period.
However, the Round of 16 offers a greater chance for a handful of the continent’s unlikely contenders to jolt the competition and pull off a giant slaying over the span of two matches.
Here are three teams poised to shock the world and make a deep run in the Champions League:
There’s no other team over the last 40 years that’s enjoyed quite as much success against continental foes like Sevilla.
On the heels of another Europa League triumph, there’s literally nowhere Sevilla would rather be at this point of the season than in the knockout stage competing with the world’s best teams for a chance to win a ludicrous fourth consecutive European title.
This season, the Spanish side – which became the first team since Bayern Munich in 1973 to claim three straight European trophies – was rewarded for its latest Europa League title with a place in the Champions League, where Sevilla’s impressive performances continued despite being lumped in a difficult group.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men now look poised for a deep run as they get set to clash with a Leicester City outfit in the midst of a goalless drought of epic proportions for a defending English champion.
Related: Leicester hits new low as barren scoring run reaches 10-hour mark
Perhaps the confidence associated with a presumably painless two-legged triumph will propel Sevilla to further success, and potentially see Los Rojiblanco become the first team since Chelsea in 2013 to win consecutive European titles in separate tournaments.
With one of Europe’s most potent attacking units, there were likely no shortage of teams happy to avoid Monaco during the Round of 16 draw.
In contrast to the past two seasons, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Monaco’s chances of producing a deep run. The team’s comfortable progression past the group stage is even more impressive when the club’s domestic success is taken into consideration, as Leonardo Jardim’s side attempts to usurp Paris Saint-Germain as France’s top-flight champion.
The objective in the knockout round, however, is far from comfortable against a Manchester City unit that presents a massive obstacle. Yet, Monaco’s historically impressive away record against English teams – five wins, two draws, two losses – could provide an injection of confidence heading into the first leg at the Etihad Stadium.
A morale-boosting victory over Pep Guardiola and a City side loaded with talent could give Monaco the confidence it needs to carry out bigger upsets as the competition evolves.
Napoli has the potential to be one of the biggest banana skins on Real Madrid’s route to a 12th European title
The Italians enter the two-legged affair with little to no pressure against a Real squad predicted to steamroll its way into the quarter-finals.
Yet, betting against Napoli – and its chances of preventing Madrid from becoming the first club during the Champions League era to defend its title – is far from guaranteed.
The Italian side has several players to thank for its success of late, but the scoring rampage that Dries Mertens has produced will likely have Real boss Zinedine Zidane scrambling to contain the gifted Belgian attacker.
With a scoring record (14 goals) over the past 10 games unrivalled by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Edinson Cavani, and former teammate Gonzalo Higuaín, Mertens could be the driving force behind one of the biggest upsets in Champions League history.
Berlin – Midfield star Xabi Alonso is an injury concern for Bayern Munich ahead of its Champions League last 16 home leg against Arsenal after being hurt in Monday’s training session.
German daily Bild and broadcaster Sport1.de both reported the 35-year-old was hurt in a tackle by fellow Spain international Javi Martinez, with Bayern hosting the Gunners at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.
In freezing weather, Alonso was left clutching his knee in clear discomfort.
Bayern said he was immediately taken to the dressing room as a precautionary measure but should be able to train again on Tuesday.
The Bavarian giants are already set to be without defender Jerome Boateng and winger Franck Ribery, who are still recovering from shoulder and thigh injuries respectively.
Arsenal is looking to break its last 16 jink having lost at this stage of the competition each of the last six seasons.
Bayern knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League in the last 16 in both 2012-13 and 2013-14.
The return leg will take place in London on March 7.