GdS: Leao, Tonali, Brahim and more – now Ibrahimovic’s ‘children’ must walk on their own

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan said an emotional goodbye to Zlatan Ibrahimovic after Sunday’s win against Hellas Verona, and now is the time to reflect on what he brought to the team.

La Gazzetta dello Sport writes how the new leader of this Milan side is Rafael Leao, and since his return Ibrahimovic put the winger under his wing and helped him grow with his advice and protection.

Zlatan focused on his qualities, seeing in him some potential to be refined and encouraging him day by day: “When he does well, he slaughters, a total massacre. He doesn’t have to settle. Too easy to compliment when things go great, or tell him he’s bad when things go wrong. With him I play the opposite game.”

In February, after his return to the field against Atalanta, the Swede also joked in an interview with DAZN about the long negotiation for Leao’s renewal.

“I lowered my salary to allow the club to move forward, I’m already playing for free for him,” he said. Leao scored a brace on the evening of Ibra’s farewell, running over to hug him after his first goal.

Then there is Sandro Tonali, whose tears were another snapshot of that night at San Siro, the reaction of a team-mate and a fan.

“We only found out yesterday, some the day before yesterday. It wasn’t easy to prepare mentally, we had to think about the match. Then we let ourselves go. I saw so many people crying, they are images which I will look at because they have a certain effect,” he said after the game.

Tonali arrived at Milan in the summer of 2020 and spent most of the first season studying and learning. After a first year apprenticeship, he became a leader scoring crucial goals in the eventual Scudetto win.

When he scored the last-minute winner at the Stadio Olimpico against Lazio, the assist came from Ibrahimovic’s head. A perfect connection, one clearly felt strongly on and off the pitch by Sandro.

The paper also mentions Pierre Kalulu, and recalls how back in December 2020 before his debut against Sparta Praha he got a bit of a telling off from the Swede.

“He said it was cold, but I told him to take off his gloves. Anyone who makes his debut so young must scare his opponents, the first image is what counts for him,” he said.

The Frenchman took note and month after month he was increasingly important for Pioli, becoming a real pillar in the league title win of 2021-22.

Some time later he told Telefoot everything: “Ibra is fundamental, he’s also the one who brought us here. Although he didn’t play much in the second half of the season, he helped us. You feel fear in your opponent when enter the field.”

It doesn’t stop there either, as Alexis Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Ismael Bennacer and others have felt Ibrahimovic’s guiding hand.

Bennacer’s message on social media says it all: “Thank you for everything. Milan will miss you, football will miss you.” The Algerian is another one with whom the Swede has a special relationship, witnessed by Zlatan after he became the oldest scorer in Serie A history.

“Ismael came to my room today and told me he wanted me to be captain. I told him okay, I’ll take this pressure off you,” Zlatan revealed.

Speaking of the captain’s armband, Calabria is one of Ibra’s children. With the 41-year-old, the defender grew above all in self-esteem and confidence.

In July he spoke to DAZN about it: “I hope he can return as soon as possible. He gave us a big hand in the dressing room, he helped all the younger players to perform as we are now on the pitch.”

Saelemaekers and Diaz are also added to this list. Last summer, the Spaniard’s speech revealed a lot: “Ibrahimovic is my father’s age, but he still makes a difference. For me he’s like a father in the dressing room, he’s made my life easier because when I have the ball I have to pass it to him, otherwise he’ll get angry.”

Brahim will return to Real Madrid, but will always be grateful to Zlatan for what he gave. Now, Ibra’s ‘children’ are ready to walk on their own.

Tags AC Milan


  1. A lot of emotions and human feelings. This is why this team went that far that fast. Some masterminds here with robots psychology think that it will be the same now, with czar Jerry and his eunuch Furlani. Not to mention the fact that players won’t take any paycut now that Jerry teached them that money is everything.

    You don’t perform the same way at your job when you love the environment and your boss or when you’re surrounded by villainy.

    1. I know you guys are going through the five stages of grief or something at the moment but I don’t think anyone here has said that things will be exactly the same after Maldini and Ibra’s exits. They were both fundamental to our recent success. And this anti Cardinale Furlani anti American pantomime hysteria is beyond tiresome already. Can’t we all just go back to supporting the team jeez.

      1. This is not anti-American, this is anti-Wall Street speculation/greed. I’m not a fan of the “deal with it” argument. The only thing we can do now is to express our disappointment and anger. Free speech. Sorry that you feel uncomfortable about that but it won’t be over soon. Get ready to hear #CardinaleOut at every mistake, difficulty or nonsense decision for the coming months.

        1. Revolting on this site makes zero difference. You should be doing that in Twitter and media that matters. You think Cardinale & co are popping by each day to read the commentaries here? LOL.

          1. The level of emotional hysteria is strange I have to admit. We’re in June ffs. How about we wait to see what happens before having a seizure?

        2. not uncomfortable just hella annoying.. Grown man? More like kids throwing a tantrum because their favorite toy was taken away

        3. If you’re saying that there hasn’t been anti-American bs on this site the last week then I don’t know what to tell you. Yep I realize nothing is going to stop you lot crying like women on a reality show for the next god knows how long, so you may as well keep it up – it’s a good look.

        1. It’s been wall to wall howling at the moon on every post since Maldini got fired. In case you’re new here.

          1. Surely there will be more anti american things going on and it will continues for long time. But anti-american here is only for Cardinale
            You can sleep at home when you can’t take it, no one is able to take it how Maldini is got fired. Its not just here every social média sites are filled with Angers from fans
            Especially Zlatan left and the next day Maldini got fired .
            No one have patience to see again the banter era

      2. Anti Cardinale because he is being disrespectful to Milan legend and history, and his policy of moneyball in treating the club like his money making tool doesn’t sit with the majority of fans. He should just buy a mid table team with no history instead of being a broke ass cheap owner who values money more than sporting glory.

  2. Interesting 🤔. Maldini wasn’t a father figure too? Where’s that article? It’s fascinating…the narrative that is. Lol lemme keep quiet, might stir the pot too much

  3. Keeping Ibra in some sort of a technical/assistant coaching role would be a good way to calm the waters during this transitionary period, to provide stability for the likes of Leao, Maignan, Theo… etc.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.