Feb 18, 2014, 7:51 PM EDT
I love watching Zlatan just as much as the rest of you.
He’s really one of the most electric players out there, without a doubt, and would qualify as a pure gamechanger.
But as much fun as he is to watch, and as vital as his goalhawking is (with his brace today he has 10 of PSG’s last 15 away goals in the Champions League) he’s not the French giants’ most important player.
I know, I know, that’s blasphemy, but bear with me.
Despite Zlatan’s spark, the designation must go to the man who gets about 1/1000th of the credit, but makes the team churn – Blaise Matuidi.
In a match where PSG got off to a explosive start and didn’t look back, the 26-year-old midfielder was the linchpin in Les Parisians whirring mechanism.
Taking a look at the first goal, and you see all you need to know about his work rate. Matuidi intercepts the ball on the right touchline, seeing the pass well before Simon Rolfes even knew he was going to attempt it. Then, after dishing to Gregory Van der Wiel, he doesn’t power down his afterburners until he gets the ball back and puts it in the back of the net, shielding off Roberto Hilbert to create space for his run.
Later, Matuidi does all the hard work to construct the foundation for PSG’s third goal, the foundation on which Ibrahimovic – as he has so often this year – builds a masterpiece atop.
The Toulouse product braced himself against both Omer Toprak and Emir Spahic (who had a nightmarish performance), attempting to make something for himself before realizing he was out of options. He went to ground but remained calm, reaching out and finding his Swedish superstar at the last possible moment for a special finish.
Matuidi eventually came off in the 67th minute, with Laurent Blanc not wishing to risk a second yellow for his most important player already ahead 3-0.
This match, however, is just one small example of Matuidi’s brilliance this year in the French Ligue 1 and beyond.
According to Squawka statistics, Matuidi has a 92% pass completion rate, including a sparkling 86% (57/66) on long balls. His superb strength also helps him defensively, completing 64% of his tackles successfully in the midfield.
In today’s match, he wasn’t needed defensively as much with PSG dominating possession until Matuidi’s exit (not a coincidence). However, he still chipped in with a successful tackle in his only attempt, as well as three interceptions, two blocked crosses, and a successful clearance.
And while his numbers in Ligue 1 play are great, he leaves his A+ game for the biggest stage – with today, he now has a goal and three assists in the Champions League, while racking up three goals and two assists in 24 Ligue 1 matches.
Ibrahimovic may get all the international headlines, highlight videos, press coverage, and fan love – and rightly so, the guy’s both a beast on the pitch and marketable off it – but Blaise Matuidi’s importance to this PSG side cannot, and should not, be understated.
With Matuidi’s guidance (along with Marco Verrati’s service and, obviously, Ibra’s flair), this team has the very real possibility of finding themselves in the Champions League final four, no question possessing the potential to shock the world with an upset or two along the way.
It’s a bit late, but I’m officially on the PSG bandwagon, and you should be too.
Mar 11, 2014, 4:55 AM EDT
Milan’s failed to turn its season around, with Atlético has stabilized after a February swoon.
Mar 11, 2014, 3:47 AM EDT
Bayern’s lost twice in the last 12 months – once to Arsenal. The holders will look to avoid a repeat of last year’s visit.
Mar 10, 2014, 10:32 PM EDT
There’s also a freshness under Mastroeni, who oozes the respectability that comes from a distinguished career.
Mar 10, 2014, 9:54 PM EDT
The Black Cats have played three less matches than the Bluebirds and two less than the Baggies. A win over Palace would land them even with the Eagles.
Mar 10, 2014, 9:21 PM EDT
“What I said to the players is ‘get it out of your head. Go home, reflect a little bit and I will do my best to come up with something better.’”
Mar 10, 2014, 8:44 PM EDT
It wasn’t a pretty night to be in Turkey, as violent fans at Trabzonspor forced the abandonment of a match with rivals Fenerbahce on Monday night.
Mar 10, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT
What to do with the goal-scoring 34-year-old Scot who’s out of contract in June?
Mar 10, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT
“Kevin made a huge contribution to our qualification for the World Cup, he never let us down and now his dreams have died,” said Holland manager Louis van Gaal.
Mar 10, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Like Manuel Pellegrini and his distaste for a certain Swedish official, Wenger is also critical of UEFA slotting in a referee from a non-footballing power.
Mar 10, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT
MLS has become a decent destination for goalkeepers, with top internationals for Peru, Brazil and Panama plying their trades in the United States this season.
Mar 10, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT
Djalo, 27, hasn’t found his footing in Lisbon, playing in just three matches since then and spending parts of 2012 and 2013 on loan at Toulouse in Ligue 1, where he appeared 17 times.
Mar 10, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Arsenal has been handed a boost for their massive Tuesday task of reversing Bayern Munich’s 2-0 advantage in the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16.
Mar 10, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
“It’s like playing 1 1/2, 1 3/4 games in terms of damage to your body,” said Ryan Nelsen.
Mar 10, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
That is not a lousy public high-five for a player, now, is it?
Mar 10, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
Timbers skipper staying put, as owner Paulson takes to Twitter to rejoice:
Mar 10, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Five teams dominate selections, find out if your favorites were rewarded:
Mar 10, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT
Barcelona have lost two of their last three La Liga matches, can City inflict more UCL heartache on the Catalan club?
Mar 10, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT
Reds are in the red… but Champions League soccer could solve that and increase the club’s financial footing:
Mar 10, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT
After Shea apparently ‘flipped the bird’ Barnsley end his loan deal from Stoke early:
Mar 10, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT
USWNT lost two straight games, winless in three for the first time in 13 years:
- Preview: Atlético Madrid back on track before Champions League visit from goal-shy Milan 0
- Preview: Bayern Munich on guard ahead of Arsenal’s Champions League visit 0
- Third time’s the harm: Fan violence forces abandonment of Trabzonspor’s match with Fenerbahce 2
- If you had Pepe Reina in your “European star rumored for MLS” pool today, you win! 0
- US women lose second straight for first time since 2001 after ugly 5-3 defeat to Denmark 4
- Premier League Playback: Fifth place finish for Man United? Superstar Shaw, Arsenal’s big chance 0
- Revs Waive DelPiccolo; Roster Stands at 27
- Inter President Denies Holding Talks with Chicharito
- Nearly Perfect Start for Galaxy, Result Aside
- USWNT Lose to Denmark 5-3 in Algarve Cup
- Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando Named MLS Player of the Week
- Will Johnson Signs New Multi-Year Contract With Portland Timbers
- Martino and Moyes Trapped in Can't-Win Situations
- CCL Watch: Cruz Azul Suffer First Loss
- TV Ratings for MLS Season Opener Increase 283% in 1 Year
- Liga MX Radar: Michael Arroyo Scores a Quad