Ibrahimovic brands Milan players as his ‘children’ and reveals club stance as he explains Sweden return

By Oliver Fisher -

Zlatan Ibrahimovic held an emotional press conference today to signal his return to the Swedish national team after an almost five-year absence.

There were rumours that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be called up for the Swedish national team ahead of their games later this month, and now it was made official last week. The 39-year-old returns after an absence of over four years and will be available for Sweden’s World Cup qualifiers later this month against Georgia and Kosovo plus a friendly against Estonia.

Ibrahimovic spoke during a press conference about his return to playing for his country, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.

He was asked about his decision to make a romantic return to Milan in December 2019 and whether that played any part in him pushing for a return to Sweden.

“After two years at LA Galaxy, I felt alive. My agent (Raiola) said it was too easy for me to play in the United States. I asked ‘who needs me most?’ said to Milan and that’s what he called the Rossoneri,” he said.

There has been some mixed reaction to Ibra’s comeback, given that he is 39 and has had several muscle problems already this season. Milan, though, were very clear.

“They had no objection to my return to the national team,” Ibra said. “I don’t come here because I’m Zlatan or Ibrahimovic. Everything I’ve done before doesn’t matter, I’m here to give my contribution. I want to be physically well. Right now I feel good. here just to help and do my best. If you ask me, I’m the best in the world.”

On his role fpr Sweden: “The coach Andersson plays with two strikers, sometimes we play like this at Milan. I have just arrived. I have only promised to decide matches for the coach.”

On the national team: “It was fun to arrive at the hotel with all the players. Some of the pictures changed, but it was nice to see people like Sebastian Larsson and Emil Krafth. The only thing I asked is not to mention my age (laughs).”

On his maturation: “The older I get, the more patience I have, both on and off the pitch. The negativity is a fuel for me, I never look at the positive. Surely now I have a lot of experience, I know what to waste energy on. I like it. I train hard.”

On his way of playing: “I’m still the same as a player, but I play differently. Now I don’t do the things I did five, ten, 15, 20 years ago. I do what I think is best for the team.”

On the end of his career: “It is not yet time. I play as long as I can. I had this thought after my injury. I want to continue doing what I love, football is my passion.”

On the captain’s armband: “In my head, Andreas Granqvist is the team captain. It’s up to the coach to decide, but we already have a team captain.”

On what drives him to continue playing: “Yesterday I broke a record, but it is not a record I want. I want to play many games with Milan. For me it is a challenge to keep my body at its best every day.”

About his age: “I am very honest with myself. Many reach a certain age and think they can continue to play the same way. I do the opposite, I adapt.”

On being a leader: “I play in one of the youngest teams in Europe. A leader is not something you choose to be, it’s something that just happens. I push my team-mates every day. Some people take it right. But now I’m in the national team. These are such short days. It’s a shame, you have to do everything in a few days. It’s the hardest job in the world. As a leader, I’m myself and I try to make the others perform at their best.”

On the jersey number: “I kindly asked for 11. Alexander Isak said yes, he can take it back in six or seven years when I stop…”

On Sweden: “The impression is positive. The coach’s directives are clear. It all depends on how you train. I’m new here, but we all speak the language of football. It shouldn’t be that hard when you play at this level.”

On his physique: “Sometimes it freezes. The head is sometimes faster than the legs can handle. But right now it’s just about feeling good and playing, every time I go out on the pitch I’m like a child touching the ball for the first time. It wasn’t like that before the injury, it came later. If it’s the head that decides, I never stop. I’m not the same player as before, but I keep playing.”

On young players: “It’s exciting. I’ll keep their pace. If I’m their idol? I don’t know. When we’re on the pitch, we have to forget it, we’re a team.

“I am available to the coach, it will be up to him to evaluate and decide. I would have no problems starting from the bench, I am here to help the team. I do not expect anything.”

On his desire to win: “I believe in success. In everything I do I want to win. That’s why I play.”

On the old problems with the coach: “They are part of the past”.

On his future as a manager: “Right now I don’t think about the role of manager. I think it is easier to be a football player than a coach. Especially if you have been a former player. I think it is very stressful to be a manager.”

On his desire to return to the national team: “When I returned from the United States and signed for Milan, I felt alive again and I felt that I could perform at a high level. The will grew more and more, I had followed the national team and playing in the national team is one of the best things in football. But it wasn’t just up to me. It has to match what the coach wants.

“When I won the Swedish Ballon d’Or, I declared in a newspaper  that I wanted to play for the national team again. We got in touch, me and the coach, and now I’m sitting here. I had a serious injury. When I was injured, I thought in my head that I was the best, but physically I was not. But now I’m here, this is my wish. I missed the national team.”

On the family: “I have two little ones at home who kick the ball, my wife asks me to tell them to stop but I say no, we can buy new things if they break them. How did they take my return to the national team? I had Vincent here who really cried when I left him. But now it’s okay … (he is moved).”

Again on Milan: “I am optimistic [about renewing his contract]. A day without Milan players is like a day without my children. This is the relationship we have created. It is as if we were sitting in a room and everyone was waiting for Zlatan to come and tell us what. I want to be part of it. I like the project that Milan is doing right now. It is not the same team as ten years ago, when they bought world players.

On the 2022 World Cup: “It will depend on how I feel. I can dream, I can wish but when it comes to the playoffs and also about Milan. You said 41 years old. My job is to prove that my age on the plane is not 41 years old. But it’s about the physical state.”

Tags AC Milan Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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