Andy Mitten

Ibrahimovic may have no say over future

Was the Camp Nou's public
address system blaring 'Go West' by the Pet Shop Boys as Barca celebrated their
Spanish Super Cup triumph on Saturday a coded message to an unwanted player?

Following a 1-3 reverse in
the first leg against Sevilla, the Catalans wheeled out bigger guns than the
youthful side fielded last week. Messi, Pique and Xavi all started in the
searing August heat though Iniesta, Puyol, Villa and Ibrahimovic remained on
the bench. The Swede's demotion was the biggest surprise as he had been Barca's
best player pre-season.

There were other notable
talking points as 67,000 cules showed at Camp Nou for the first time this
season. It was David Villa's first game in a Barca shirt and he received a huge
ovation when he took to the field - as did fellow substitute Andres Iniesta,
six weeks after scoring the goal which won Spain a first World Cup. It was also
new club president Sandro Rosell's first home game after being a clear winner
in the elections to replace the outgoing Joan Laporta, but the talking point
was Ibrahimovic.

True, a sublime Lionel
Messi hat-trick in a 4-0 victory meant the fans went home raving about the
Argentinian's brilliance, but the Swede's future continues to occupy Catalan
minds.

I interviewed Ibrahimovic
last week and saw a determined man who was determined to stay. He didn't want
to leave, even if it meant rejoining one of the two people in football he
respects most, Roberto Mancini at Manchester City.

With Chelsea exercising
relative austerity and Manchester United's substantial profits used to pay off
massive debts, the only other team who could afford to pay Ibrahimovic's wages
are Real Madrid.

Jose Mourinho worked with
him at Internazionale and though they had a sometimes fractious relationship,
Ibra was still Serie A's top scorer under Mourinho. Could he Go West? Some
informed sources think so.

Such a move would shatter
his standing with Barca fans, one of whom took a giant 'ANIMS IBRA' ('Chin up,
Ibra', in Catalan) to Camp Nou on Saturday, but the Swede may have no choice.

It's only just over a year
since they unveiled him as their record signing and 61,000 - a record to greet
any Barca new boy - showed to welcome him. He scored a creditable 21 goals in
41 games including a winner against Real Madrid, but he faded in the second
half of the season, picked up injuries and squabbled with a boss who gets shut
of players if he doesn't have a good rapport with them - even if they are
hot-shots like Samuel Eto'o.

Barca have to watch their
spending too. They have substantial debts and they let big earners like Thierry
Henry and Rafa Marquez go to New York, while €25 million signing Dmytro
Chygrynskiy returned to Shakhtar Donetsk at a €10 million loss so quickly that
his house movers have been in permanent employment for the last year.

New president Rosell is
pushing some of the departures to save money and free up capital for any late
new signings, but if Barca do dispense with their most expensive player just a
year after signing him it will not cover any of the parties involved in
glory.