PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani should be one of the most devastating strike partnerships in world football. Yet, strangely, they only score for Paris Saint-Germain when they don't play together.
In Saturday's 4-0 win against Bastia, Ibrahimovic scored twice, went off at halftime and was replaced by Cavani, who got two.
The two players who together cost PSG 84 million euros ($115 million) are scoring more than Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, with 14 goals to their 12.
But, in 13 games, Ibrahimovic and Cavani still haven't scored in the same match when playing together.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc laughed when asked if they aren't better playing separately.
"No, not at all," he said. "I'm convinced it can work."
With the exception of his unhappy year at Barcelona, all of Ibrahimovic's teams have largely rotated around him. That is true in Paris, too. Tellingly, Cavani has been asked to adapt, not Ibrahimovic. Blanc posts Cavani wide right in a 4-3-3 system, allowing Ibrahimovic to roam at center forward.
"Edinson can play anywhere with the same efficiency," Blanc said.
Ibrahimovic was at his brilliant best against Bastia, scoring another outrageous goal.
A deflected cross landed behind Ibrahimovic — a black belt in taekwondo — who volleyed it with the back of his heel and over his shoulder with fabulous dexterity.
Teammates flocked around the grinning Swede as he milked the crowd's applause.
Try saying "You should be more unselfish" to someone like that.
"Zlatan is a lion, and like all lions, he wants to be the king of the jungle, protect his patch," said Angelo Castellazzi, an assistant to coach Carlo Ancelotti last season in PSG's successful title campaign, where Ibrahimovic scored a career-best 30 goals.
Cavani, last season, scored 29 for a free-flowing Napoli side where he was the focal point.
In 104 league games for Napoli, he scored 78 goals. In fact, Cavani's goal ratio over the past four seasons — one is every 1.33 games — is higher than Ibrahimovic's tally of one every 1.4 games (88 in 123 games).