Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The name conjures images of bunned hair, incredible goals by the truckload, tons of titles won, and memorable quotes galore. What that name doesn't conjure is a connection with Napoli -- he's only ever played against the partenopei six times in his career, and scored just four times in those games, a fairly pedestrian mark for him if you're being honest. But apparently Zlatan sees a connection between himself and Napoli, or so says his agent, the infamous Mino Raiola.
"Ibrahimovic told me he wanted to end his career at Napoli," Raiola said in a recent interview, after spending several minutes praising what Napoli has done this season. Raiola thinks very highly of Maurizio Sarri and Cristiano Giuntoli and the work they've done to turn Napoli around, and spoke of trying to extend the deal that Omar El Kaddouri has with the team because of their success.
There's a problem, though, that will apparently keep The Almighty Zlatan away from Napoli: Aurelio De Laurentiis. "[Zlatan] is not part of De Laurentiis' footballing project," Raiola told the interviewer, putting a blunt death to the hopes of any Napoli fans who wasnted to see Ibrahimovic play in a very particular shade of blue before he retired. That "footballing project" is one Raiola referred to in talking about El Kaddouri, mentioning that he was talking about a long-term contract extension instead of a one-year deal because De Laurentiis "always wants long-term projects."
Of course, there's another issue as well. Raiola and De Laurentiis have publicly traded barbs numerous times throughout the years, and neither man seems to be a particularly large fan of the other. The two Naples locals -- Raiola grew up just outside the city -- both have massive egos and wildly different views on how football teams should operate, so it's little surprise that they clash so thoroughly.
De Laurentiis probably also isn't a fan of Raiola constantly trying to unsettle Marek Hamsik and get him to leave Napoli for a bigger club. That rarely goes over well.
Regardless, it's a shame that we probably won't be seeing Ibrahimovic in a Napoli shirt before his career is done. It was always unlikely because of his sky-high wages, but man ... that would have been fun.