Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed that he is ‘very proud’ at how a young AC Milan squad are developing, and suggested that retirement is not yet a part of his plans.
Even at 40 years old the Swede continues to be decisive, as he has five goals in seven Serie A games this season having battled back from a couple of injury problems to help the team along. He has been given huge credit for instilling a certain belief and mentality since his arrival in the winter transfer window of the 2019-20 season, with the trajectory almost straight upwards from that point.
Ibrahimovic gave a very insightful interview to Donald McRae – a journalist from the British newspaper The Guardian – about a number of topics including his formative years and why it means so much to him to see Milan fighting at the top again.
“Getting more money won’t heal you. Getting attention won’t heal you. What will heal you is the adrenaline. I have no problem with suffering. For me, suffering is like having breakfast. But many people don’t understand suffering because the new generation, with all these platforms, has to do little to get credit. The generation before this had to do a lot to achieve something. I am very proud to belong to the older generation,” he said (via MilanNews).
AC Milan are the youngest team in the Champions League…
“Even if I’m there. It’s incredible. They make me look young. It has this effect, like Benjamin Button. After six months here you will have dark hair, trust me. I’m very proud because I see these young players taking on more responsibility, changing their mentality.
“This is my happiness now. This is my adrenaline. I go out and run as much as they do. I have been doing this for 20 years. People think, ‘No, Ibrahimovic, you have to stop’. My mentality says otherwise. I do it because when young people they see me working they say, ‘After everything he’s done he’s still [working]. I have to do it because he did it’. I have to show them by example.”
Milan are growing rapidly…
“I’m not that dog that barks and does nothing. I am the opposite. When I was here for the first time [2010-2012] we were superstars. Now it is full of talents, the youngest team in Europe, but we are at the top. So it’s a different project and it’s more satisfying because if you’re successful with superstars, that’s to be expected. This is unpredictable.”
Ibrahimovic played against Paolo Maldini and now his son Daniel plays alongside Zlatan…
“One is the classic good guy. The other is very different. I am happy that they are not the same because it is not easy for the son to be compared to the father, especially when the father has the career he had.
“We are helping the son in every way. He is a great talent, but I tell him: ‘Play your game, fight, then you will lead the way on your own’. I am happy. I played against the father and today I play with the son. Maybe [Daniel] will have a child…. Will I play with Daniel’s son? It is already a miracle now.”
Ibrahimovic with a smile takes the journalist’s notebook and studies the 48 scribbled questions that span three pages…
“You brought a whole book with you. My time is very expensive. But you take your work very seriously and there is a lot to talk about. I’m not here to say that I’m fine because I’m from the ghetto or that you should feel sorry for me because I’m from there. You make the best of it and then it’s up to you.
“Life is up and down. If everything has been perfect, we have nothing to talk about. We still make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. On digital platforms you put a photo with 20 filters and you are perfect. But when I see you you’re not actually perfect. You look normal like everyone else.
“People pretend to be perfect. I say: ‘I am perfect when I am myself’. That doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes. But I learn from them. The other day in the national team, I made a tackle on Azpilicueta. I did it on purpose. I’m not ashamed to say this because he did something stupid to my player.
“It was stupid but I’d do it anyway to make him understand: ‘You don’t f**king do this. You don’t have the balls to do it against me. But I’ll show you what happens if you do it to me’. That’s why I did it. What can he say? He won’t tell me but he’ll tell my player, who won’t do anything because he’s too nice. It wasn’t a good thing for me, but I would still do it. It’s me. I’m not ashamed to say it.”
The incident will cause him to miss the March play-offs…
“It’s not about missing the playoffs. It’s about letting the kid know that you don’t bulls*it someone laying [on the ground]. You don’t attack a dog that doesn’t speak. Attack someone who can do something. Too easy to blame my team-mates who are 20 and are very nice guys. I hope you understand now.
“I’m not afraid to tell you. I did a stupid thing. But I’ll do it again. 100%. That’s what I say about being ‘perfect’. Being myself is perfect for me. I don’t need filters to ask them what kind of questions you’re going to ask me.”
His two seasons at Manchester United have been partially successful…
“I had a great experience in England. Manchester United are a fantastic club and we have won a couple of trophies. They talk too much about the past. When I went there I said, ‘I’m here to focus on the present and to create my story’. But when you have too much it becomes like a loop. You have to think about the present or you should go to the hospital and wipe your head.”
Did the Premier League seem overrated to you?
“Quality is overestimated from a technical point of view. But the Premier League has different qualities: the rhythm, the pace. You can be the best player in the world, but if you can’t handle that pace and that rhythm… [you won’t be able to]. In Spain, France, Italy the technique is better. This is why there are so many foreigners in the Premier League. They bring the technique.”
Ibrahimovic is also very attached to his family, which resides in Sweden.
“It’s not easy, but my wife takes care of the children. We make it work. When there is free time we meet and we are all happy.”
But without family and football, how did you feel at the start of the pandemic?
“I was alone. Things were very strict and you couldn’t travel. It was weird because in those moments you are with your loved ones and I couldn’t. But then they opened up a bit and I went home and stayed with them for two months.”
Zlatan and LeBron have a lot in common, but Ibrahimovic chose to criticize James for making political statements.
“Sport brings people together. Politics divides people. If we talk about racism, that’s another thing. It’s something I don’t agree with. But I don’t do politics. If I did, I would be president now.
“LeBron? I don’t know him personally. I don’t judge him. Whatever he does with racists, he’s right, because when 50,000 call you a fucking gypsy, it’s the same. This is [also] racism. But I don’t do politics. I do sport. This is how you spread love.”
The journalist concludes his interview with: ‘Zlatan, is something scaring you about your future without football?’
“If I worry about the future, I don’t focus on today. I am the present time. Carpe Diem.”