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Explained: How has Zlatan Ibrahomovic made a difference at AC Milan

Into his 40th year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the top scorer of the league’s top team - still undefeated - and has made a miraculous recovery from a knee injury.

Written by Shashank Nair | New Delhi | Updated: December 23, 2020 8:11:34 am
Zlatan Ibrahomovic has scored 10 goals in Serie A so far this season. (File Photo)

Football refuses to quit on Zlatan Ibrahomovic as the Swedish striker leads AC Milan to the top of Serie A — a league that has Cristiano Ronaldo and his Juventus as well as Inter Milan, who are managed by Antonio Conte.

Into his 40th year, Ibrahimovic is the top scorer of the league’s top team – still undefeated – and has made a miraculous recovery from a knee injury suffered at Manchester United to play as well as he has in Italy after a two-season stint at LA Galaxy.

How is this AC Milan team a new environment for Ibrahimovic?

AC Milan have one of the younger sides in the league, with an average age of under 25. Adding someone with the experience of Ibrahimovic changes the mentality of the dressing room. The well-travelled star has assumed a leadership responsibility at the club and once bought a PlayStation 5 for every player in the squad.

In an interview to BBC Sport, the Swede talked about how his earlier stint at Milan (2010-12) involved fighting consistently for titles, but this second stint is built more towards bringing the Italian club back to its former glory days.

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Has age changed Zlatan’s approach to the game?

Through his stellar career, Ibrahimovic has turned out for a who’s who of European club royalty – the two Milan clubs, Juventus, Barcelona, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax. The air of arrogance that one associates with him continues to be projected through his social media accounts but occasionally things get real. and the Swedish striker opens up about his limitations.

“I’m honest in saying that I’m not running like I ran before; I’m running more intelligent now. The Italian league, the reason I say that it’s the most difficult to play in for a striker is because, it’s very technical and the philosophy of Italy is to not to concede a goal rather than score a goal,” Zlatan told BBC Sport.

What do the numbers say?

It doesn’t matter which phase of Zlatan’s career is pored over – titles and trophies are a given. The ability to understand that he can’t run like he used to, but still adapting his game to score 10 goals in the ongoing Serie A season, makes the 39-year-old a force to reckon with, especially considering how Milan are upsetting the status quo of Juventus – who have won the last nine league titles in a row and have Ronaldo on their roster.

Milan are currently on 31 points after 13 Serie A games – one point ahead of city rivals Inter and four ahead of Juventus. While talk of a domestic title – potentially Milan’s 19th and the first since 2010-11 – will be premature at this stage, the Zlatan effect is there for all to see.

How did Zlatan come out of a career-threatening injury?

In his second season at Manchester United (2017-18), Ibrahimovic suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear which essentially is a nine-month layoff for a footballer – a recovery he completed in seven months. For him to be at the age he was and to not only not retire, but return to ply his trade in a top European league a couple of years later, proves his resolve to make an incredible comeback.

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