Zlatan Ibrahimovic was fuming. Paris St-Germain had just produced an abject 45 minutes against Troyes and the Swede had had enough. At half-time he stood up and unleashed a tirade towards his millionaire team-mates, finishing the outburst by shouting "my sons play better than you". He then sat down.
Ibrahimovic has two sons. They are six and five years old. Quite what Ezequiel Lavezzi – signed from Napoli for €30m (£25m) last summer – the Brazilian international defender Thiago Silva or the little Argentinian genius Javier Pastore made of the insult is not quite clear — or where the manager Carlo Ancelotti was hiding, for that matter – but it proved once again that if there is one thing the Swede cannot tolerate it is mediocrity. In the second half Ibrahimovic scored twice as PSG won 4-0. The following day "Ibra" was rated 9 out of 10 by L'Equipe for his performance. Pastore, meanwhile, was given a 3.
After the 2-2 draw against Marseille, Ibrahimovic was so angry with his team-mates that he sat on his own on the plane back to Paris and refused to speak to any of them. Lucas Moura, who joined the club in January, has admitted that Ibrahimovic "shouts a lot at us" on the pitch while Nene was involved in a training-ground bust-up with the Swede this season.
Zlatan is 31 now but he appears to be as angry as ever. And on Tuesday he will focus all that anger towards Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals, giving him a chance to exact revenge on the club he fell out with so spectacularly within a year of joining as the club-record signing in 2009.
Ibra's presence has given the PSG v Barcelona tie an edge it probably did not need. It was already the standout tie of the quarter-finals: the nouveau rich against the people's champions. Before the last round of matches José Mourinho said that "the world would be watching" Real Madrid's game against Manchester United. Well, this time the world will be watching Zlatan's attempt to gun down his former employer.
"How do you beat them? Good question," said Ibrahimovic. "We will have to concentrate on our way of playing and the coach will choose the right tactics for this match against, without doubt, the best team in the world."
The French club claim they have received up to one million ticket requests for the match and this is exactly the kind of tie their owner, Qatar Sports Investments, dreamed of when they bought a 70% stake in June 2011. They have subsequently spent well over €200m on players, with roughly €40m of that going on Ibra. Add a pinch of David Beckham and world domination suddenly seems achievable. The PSG sporting director, Leonardo, did not try to downplay the two games against Barça, saying after the draw that the tie would be "a celebration of football".
It certainly will be intriguing. Zlatan has disappointed on so many occasions in big Champions League matches but at least three things work in his favour this time round: he is past that time of the year when he normally struggles (January-February), he is playing some of the best football of his life and, wait for it, he has matured.
Yes, even the most rebellious of footballers is likely to mature at some stage. For Zlatan it has been gradual. Becoming a father helped, as did the Sweden captaincy. To call him an elder statesman may be pushing it but there are clear signs of him becoming more responsible. For Sweden, he instigated that remarkable comeback against Germany (4-0 down to draw 4-4) with an inspired half-time team talk, while he was the first one to comfort Tobias Sana when the youngster had missed a sitter in the final minutes of that game.
For his club side, he sportingly gave the ball back to Nancy when their goalkeeper was struggling injured despite PSG being a goal down and chasing an equaliser. He has also impressed pretty much everyone at the club with his determination, work-rate and leadership qualities.
Moura, for one, admitted he was slightly surprised by just how nice Ibrahimovic is. "My first contact with him [Ibrahimovic] was very positive," Moura, the Brazilian who joined PSG in Jaunary, said. "Contrary to what people had told me he was really helpful. He helped me a lot actually and has treated me very well since I arrived at the club. He likes to joke a lot and has been very supportive. I was surprised."
The midfielder Blaise Matuidi even went as far as calling Zlatan "a role model". The Frenchman said: "Ibrahimovic is the strongest player I have ever played with. But I knew that would be the case before he arrived. He is an exceptional player. In training, he always wants to win, Monday to Friday. I'm surprised actually. I have never seen a player with such great technical skills.
"To have him on our side, we are very fortunate. He is close to everyone, he's a nice guy and fun to be around. When he arrived, we naturally had our ideas [about him] but we now know him as someone who is open, someone just like everyone else. He is a role model."
He is popular with the fans too, despite having had a go at them after that game against Nancy, during which PSG where whistled by their own supporters, saying: "It seems a strange thing for them to do, considering what they had before, which was nothing." The comment has stuck with the Parisians – so much so that it created the word "zlatanisme", which now signifies something that is controversial enough that it could have been said by the Swede.
Ancelotti immediately leapt to Ibrahimovic's defence after those inflammatory comments and has described the Swede as indispensable. After Ibrahimovic had his suspension for the first leg against Barcelona lifted, Ancelotti said he was "delighted" to be able to pick the Swede.
At Barcelona, however, they have mixed memories of Ibra, who started his spell in Catalonia by scoring in his first five league matches – a club record — but ended it by falling out with pretty much everyone and telling Pep Guardiola that "he had no balls". Ibrahimovic has been back to Camp Nou once, with Milan last season, and that match ended with him leaving the pitch feeling "disgusted" with the referee and adding that he now understood "why José Mourinho gets upset every time he plays at Camp Nou".
Tuesday's game is at Parc des Princes, not Camp Nou, and this time Ibrahimovic has a far better team around him. The world will be watching but it cannot possibly know what to expect from Ibrahimovic, a footballer whose unpredictability is his greatest asset yet also his worst enemy.