AC Milan have been on a remarkable journey since their 5-0 defeat to Atalanta last season, one conditioned largely by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
As Calciomercato.com writes, it was back on 22 December 2019 that Atalanta humiliated Stefano Pioli’s Milan with an unforgettable 5-0 scoreline and on that day Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Maldini realised that a turning point was needed, so the idea of signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born, convincing Elliott Management who were initially opposed because of age and salary.
The Swede charged his team-mates on and off the pitch and above all helped the team to rise from 11th to sixth place that season, getting back into Europe, and the 39-year-old earned a new contract too. This time though, in the next away match in Bergamo, Ibrahimovic will be missing for a game which is more important as a top four place is on the line.
Covid stopped him for 4 games and there was a round of disqualification, but Ibra missed another 7 matches with problems in his left thigh, 6 due to issues in his left calf, 4 for left adductor problems and the last 3 for knee problems.
Attempts to adapt Rebic and Leao to the role did not work and it became apparent Milan were one or two strikers short, unlike Inter who had four: Lukaku, Lautaro, Sanchez and Pinamonti. The article adds how Milan were “hostage to Ibrahimovic” and now Pioli is paying the price, because Ibrahimovic scored his last goal on 21 March in Florence.
Whatever happens on Sunday, it was a mistake to surrender only to Ibrahimovic in attack, even more serious if Milan fail to return to the Champions League. This season the former PSG striker has only played exactly half of the league games (19 out of 38), so how many will he be able to play next when he has crossed the 40-year mark?
His absence from the European Championships is already a cause for alarm, because at best he will have to start training alone when preseason preparation begins. Calciomercato.com add how “looking back on all this, one suspects that after being an added value last season, this year Ibrahimovic negatively influenced the entire Milan environment with his charisma and personality”.
Between the Sanremo festival, shouting his advice to his team-mates from the bench over the coach and trying to be the leader even when he cannot lead by example on the field, Milan have become Ibradependent.