TEAMtalk's Jon Holmes heads to Paris Saint-Germain for a rendezvous with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, only to find him upstaged on a balmy evening.
He's one of Europe's most talented and decorated footballers. With over 80 caps, he averages a goal every three games for his country. In terms of combined transfer fees over the course of his career, he's out on his own. He's the second highest-paid player on the planet. He is Zlatan.
However, Mr Ibrahimovic is not everyone's cup of tea - and all because he has a rather high opinion of himself, to say the least. Arrogance is a quality which is not universally admired in elite athletes. It's what makes Ronaldo less loveable than Messi, although it made Muhammad Ali more popular than any other sportsman in history. Our reactions to the supremely confident vary wildly. Those who are pure box office to some are preening primadonnas to others.
Opinions on Ibrahimovic are probably lower in the UK than anywhere else in Europe. He's never played in the Premier League and has rarely turned it on against English sides. A few months back, he helped AC Milan demolish Arsenal in the San Siro, but was fairly anonymous in the return leg at the Emirates. He scored twice at Euro 2012, including arguably the best goal of the tournament against France, but wasn't at his best against England. His appearance on our TV screens is usually accompanied by the match summariser saying how he fails to turn up for 'the big games'. It's a sweeping statement that casts aside his strong, steady goal return in domestic leagues. In any case, mention it to the man himself and it's likely he would barely react. In his own mind, he is untouchable. He is Zlatan.
Being haughty yet cultured, a summer switch to Paris - the home of haute couture - was perfectly tailored to Ibrahimovic (and his accountants also). And having seen him play live for Sweden a couple of times (and not to any great standard), it seemed a great opportunity to head over to the French capital for the weekend and check him out for club rather than country.
Getting your match tickets for Paris Saint-Germain home games from the UK is straightforward enough. Register for the club website, wait until the match you want to see is on sale (usually three weeks or so in advance) and buy online. It's likely you'll only be able to choose to sit in the Paris (east) or Presidential (west) side of the Parc des Princes, with the ends behind the goals reserved for hardcore regulars. PSG tickets for Ligue 1 games cost around 40 euros; expect to pay a bit more for the best seats. Most French clubs allow fans to print off tickets at home, but PSG still insist on popping them in the post the old-fashioned way. It's only an extra two euros and the pair I ordered for the match against Sochaux landed through my letterbox about a week and a half before the game (they weren't sent by registered mail so no signature was required, which seems unusual in this day and age).
Flying out on Saturday lunchtime from Leeds-Bradford to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), and back on late Monday afternoon, was great value with Jet2 - only £82 for return flights. However, the TV schedulers at Canal+ had their eye on PSG v Sochaux and brought it forward to a 5.30pm start local time on Saturday after I'd booked travel and tickets - that gave us only three hours until kick-off on arrival at the airport. We made it OK, but be aware that matches may be shifted with only three weeks' notice. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express at the Place d'Italie, in the south of the city. The rail service from CDG takes about 45 minutes and goes through the Gare du Nord, where you'll alight if you've come by Eurostar instead.
The Parc des Princes is situated in the south-west of the city, at the end of Metro line 10. Getting into the ground proved to be a bit of a scrum, but we hurried through to find our seats just in time for kick-off. The club had provided free flags for supporters (perhaps as recompense for taking the early evening TV slot) and although the crowd was a few thousand short of the 48,700-capacity, the atmosphere was buzzing - pumped up by the stadium DJ blaring out a mix of above-average Europop followed by the rather funky Ligue 1 theme tune. Concrete Seventies structures are rarely admired for their architecture, but as a football arena the Parc doesn't really feel dated at all. The famous 'Kop of Boulogne' stand was rocking and the chants of "Ici c'est Paris!" made for a noisy and passionate opening.
With Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jeremy Menez not involved, a chance in attack was afforded to Kevin Gameiro, making his first start of the season. Gameiro was one of the first buys when the Qatari money flooded into PSG last summer, but the prolific former Lorient forward has been overlooked of late by Carlo Ancelotti. The 25-year-old seized the opportunity on Saturday, however, netting twice in the first half. His first goal came after 10 minutes after he exquisitely controlled an excellent lofted Javier Pastore pass and finished through the legs of Simon Pouplin. He slid in to convert Maxwell's left-wing cross for the second on 33 minutes. Sochaux threatened to score on several occasions in the first half, with Ryan Contout impressing down the right flank and big striker Cedric Bakambu proving to be a real handful - but they faded badly soon after the restart and PSG were able to coast through the second half with very few scares.
Ibrahimovic played his part in Gameiro's second goal, moving the ball left with a clever pass to find Maxwell, but with the sun setting slowly in Paris, the big Swede barely needed to break sweat. Star man on the pitch for me was teenage Italy international Marco Verratti, whose probing and scurrying ensured centre midfield remained a hive of activity at least.
PSG minds were on the midweek Champions League clash at FC Porto well before the final whistle and with Marseille's perfect record ending at Valenciennes on Sunday, Ancelotti's men were able to close the gap at the top of the Ligue 1 table to three points.
Having not been to Paris myself for several years, and with the weather so glorious, the rest of our weekend was filled with standard tourist fare (Eiffel Tower, boat trip down the Seine, plenty of great food and vin) and late Sunday night excitement, watching the thrilling denouement of the Ryder Cup.
I did visit the PSG superstore on the Champs Elysees, where the club-shop prices seemed to be in competition with the likes of Gucci and Cartier nearby. At least Zlatan will tell you he's worth it, and although he can't guarantee you a top-dollar display every time he takes to the field, the PSG experience is an affordable and atmospheric football trip you should definitely splash out on.
Follow Jon on Twitter at @jonboy79.