Ibrahimovic discusses Milan’s ambitions, future of star trio, his role and Zirkzee rumours

By Oliver Fisher -

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed some of the background on how he ended up back at AC Milan and what the club are planning for the future.

It was announced earlier in the week that Ibrahimovic would be leading a media briefing and a press conference, his first as a Senior Advisor to RedBird Capital and the Milan management since his return to the club late last year.

He spoke in front of around 70 journalists at Milanello and the event began with a question and answer session on stage with one of the Milan TV journalists, and then the questions were opened up to the floor.

You can watch in full via the video below, while his words were transcribed by MilanNews as he addressed Gerry Cardinale’s call to bring him back, what his role is and the new era that the club are heading into after Stefano Pioli’s exit.

Tell us about your return to AC Milan…

“I can start by saying that after six months my hair has already gone grey. We work. After my retirement from football, you have another freedom. Freedom of life, in doing things, then I have two children. I was away from the family for a long time, because in football there is this sacrifice.

“But not negatively, you spend a lot of time on football. When you stop, it is important that the mind is active. I went on like this, then I got a call from Giorgio Furlani who said ‘Come to Milanello, say hello’. From there we see, I knew nothing.

“It was all in friendship, for what I did, the story. From there we went forward, I had my first meeting with Gerry Cardinale. We just talked, me and him, a meeting lasting a few hours. He asked me about life, what I thought I would do now.

“He made me the proposal to return to Milan, as an operating partner for RedBird. I explained to Gerry: ‘If I have to join Milan it must be a winning project’. I don’t accept losing, I have to and want to win. And I will win.

“Gerry replied ‘Welcome to the club’. We have the same ambition. We started from there and after 6 months my hair is gray but we take it step by step. I feel strong. We talked a lot before starting this adventure. I met the person and we speak the same language, we have the same thoughts.

“Gerry is a winner: he wants to get there, have his way, with ambition. We need to create a winning project, not only for the present but also in the long term. I said ‘Gerry I’m the perfect man’. But always with intelligence. We started from there but with ambition.”

What does your role consist of?

“It’s simple. Many ask, but I am an operating partner of RedBird, I work close to Cardinale, but also at Milan in close contact with Moncada, Furlani. They are not one-man shows because everyone is important, they have their responsibilities. Like a team.”

What is the next step for Milan?

“The next step is to strengthen the team to make it even stronger and be competitive for the objectives we have, namely trophies. Not only in Italy but also in Europe, because Milan’s history is also in Europe. From 2011 to 2023 the story was not like Milan.

“Milan don’t win, they make history: this is the difference with the others. You have to be this thinking, this mindset and these goals. Nobody said we were satisfied. We finished second, we didn’t do well in the Europa League, we agree with the fans that we are not satisfied.

“After the season an evaluation is made, but here there is no limit. The sky is the limit. We want to improve and be stronger than we are today.”

Are you optimistic for the future?

“I am very optimistic and positive. We have a group with young leaders, they are hungry. They want to make a difference. We have our strategy, our plan. It’s not because you lose a match that you panic. We are confident in what we do. We follow our strategy, the future is positive.

“Then everyone does this job for Milan, not for personal objectives. But not just in words, I don’t want to make promises that I don’t want to keep: we want to demonstrate it, we work every day.”

You have an announcement to make about the new head coach…

“I want to say thanks to Pioli for what he did to Milan on behalf of the club, the owners. I had him as a player. What he did with Milan remains. He deserves all the compliments that he has had and that he will have. The new

“Milan coach will be Paulo Fonseca. We have studied well, we have set the criteria on what we are looking for, on what we want, with many thoughts. He will bring his identity to the players we have, to how we want the team to play.

“We wanted to bring, after five years of Pioli, something new to the players. We studied it, we also wanted to bring something new to San Siro. With these players we have, it matches as much as possible. He is the right man, we are confident and we believe in him a lot.”

Are Milan aiming for a new striker? How far along are the Zirkzee talks?

“If we talk about the team, if we look at a year ago, where my colleagues did a great job bringing 12 players with a big mercato, the strategy was to lay the base. This market will be more than details to improve the team and the role on the pitch.

“One of them is number 9, after Olivier is free. There is Jovic but there is room for another. It’s a role we’re looking for. Zirkzee is a strong player, he has potential, he had a great season. The rumours going around are quite distant from the reality, whether we are close or far away.

“Is Zirkzee like me? I don’t like comparing players, he not only plays well but he plays very well. He comes from the Dutch school of football like me. Then I don’t know whether he is another Ibra or not, I’m Zlatan and he’s Zirkzee.”

Is the mission to get the second star next season?

“With Gerry we speak the same language. I wouldn’t have come in here if I didn’t believe in this ambition and this winning project. The team always needs players who compete. There is a team that starts and then evaluates itself at the end of the season.

“If you are the favourite it doesn’t mean you will win. The goal is to win, everything we do is to aim to create a very competitive team to win trophies. We are here to make history.

“There is no guarantee like in life, but we work to achieve our goals. We want to do things intelligently and be smart. I’d like to add: we are thinking about the third star, let alone the second.”

How close was Lopetegui to joining?

“The name of a coach was in the newspapers every day. Moncada wanted one, Ibra another, Cardinale another, the fans another and Furlani another. Fonseca is reality. There are names put on the table, which we discussed. Then between Lopetegui and Fonseca it was more towards Fonseca.”

Why was the choice made to go for Fonseca?

“When we decided to leave Pioli, we immediately started thinking about next year. We wanted a good end for Pioli, who deserved it. We spoke to Fonseca, otherwise it would have been strange. Every day we talk, we share ideas and strategies.

“He has the desire for him in the dialogue with us, the idea of ​​how to improve the collective. We also have an Under 23 project which will be very important for us.

“We want to connect Under 23s with the first team and Fonseca’s role will be important because he gives importance and responsibility to young players. Small details we are discussing. We will compete for four trophies next year, but it’s not just the coach that counts but also the team.”

How do you feel in your new role?

“I don’t know how many former players, when they retired, who had a chance like this. I have to get used to the fact that it is different from being a player. I have to be meaner, even if he [a player] is a friend, because you have to think of the good of Milan.

“I can give my experience, where I played in top clubs. I can bring the thoughts of a former player. Being a manager and a former footballer are two different things: I have a lot to grow and give. I have good colleagues who help me. We work as a group, with a lot of hunger and desire.”

What do you say to the Milan fans who wanted a different name, like Antonio Conte?

“Before, we studied the type of coach, the type of identity in his game. Then when Fonseca’s name came up, you want to meet the person, face to face. We made our requests and vice versa.

“We had a good feeling there, he convinced us of his ambition, his desire to work and do well. At Milan you have a coach, not a manager. We didn’t discuss Conte, he wasn’t what we were looking for.”

Did seeing Inter get the 20th Scudetto hurt?

“I don’t know how much it hurt, it motivated me more than anything and it gives me the hunger to do more. Even Milan doesn’t look at other teams, a loser does, Milan look at themselves. What is around does not touch, the word suffer is for a loser. Here you are talking to a winner.”

Is there any update on the new stadium?

“Gerry wants to create and bring something new. This stadium idea is brilliant, because AC Milan fans deserve a ‘Wow’ stadium. It must be a spectacle. Americans know about entertainment. Then Furlani will respond in the stadium as he knows more details than me.”

Will Maignan, Leao and Theo stay?

“Yes, yes, they will stay. Maignan, Theo and Leao remain, they are among the strongest in the roles they play. They have a contract with us, they stay and they are happy. We don’t need to sell. Thanks to RedBird’s work we have the opportunity to bring in strong players and improve the team.

“The club brought in 12 players last year I think it was, we laid the foundation and now the details count to improve the team. We are looking for a striker, then the market is every day. We have a scouting system around the clock.

“Then there are 1000 calls every day where players offer. Then from this, to finalise a player is a process that we are doing. He may be the strongest in the world, but if he isn’t our profile he isn’t for us.”

What do you think of agents?

“I chose not to speak to the agents because I am still too black and white, a little impatient, Furlani and Moncada are more patient than me. I come from the old school with Raiola, with Galliani, straighter old school.

“Then when the negotiations come, we’re in there and we talk. We have brains that do their job in the top way. If you come from school of Mino… we’ll be there.”

Why didn’t you go for an Italian coach?

“Why didn’t we go for Conte? With what we were looking for, Conte’s name didn’t come up. It depends on the material you have. For us the best match for our team was Paulo Fonseca. The identity we wanted to bring.

“It was important for us to get a coach who fits the team we have, to improve the collective. Then there is also the Under 23 project, but our heart must be the first team. We have both Italian and international players: unfortunately none are in the Italian national team, Gabbia should have been.

“There are Italian players on the list we are looking at. You’re not an agent are you? (Laughs). If you have a name then we can talk about it.”

Are Milan at risk of missing out on players because of their stance on commissions?

“When it comes to negotiations everyone wants to exploit the situation. They like to make out as though the club are under pressure. But it has to be ok for us, not just them. It’s not charity, it has to be good for the club. Let’s spend intelligently, what value do we get from this situation.”

Would you like to win the Champions League as a director?

“I want to win as much as possible. When you are at Milan you have the chance to win everything you play. It’s not a revenge because I didn’t win it as a footballer, but I want to make a difference. I want to enter a place where I have the opportunity to do so.

“I want to make a difference and start from scratch. It has nothing to do with my career as a player. Obviously I want to win the Champions League, Milan wants to make history.”

You said Theo and Maignan will stay. Their contracts run out in 2026, are there renewal talks?

“Everything is possible. I don’t know their requests, maybe you know more than me. It’s always an internal thing, we talk. But anything is possible. Thanks to the work of RedBird there is the possibility of doing these things.

“Then where we get there are two parts: if someone tells me that he doesn’t want to be here it’s a problem. If they don’t want to win i The two of them are very happy, they have made history and must continue to make it.”

How do Milan win in Europe, when there are clubs who can outspend you?

“We have put in place a strategy, a plan. When you do these things the little details make the difference. We are like a Formula 1 that goes fast on the track. It must be kept there, there is a risk of sliding off the track. Getting to the top is easier than always staying at the top.”

Will you speak with those who want to invest in Milan?

“I haven’t done it until now, then if I do it… It depends on where Gerry sees me in that situation. There was no mention of investors. I’ll pass this on to Giorgio Furlani for more details. Living what RedBird represents, I am sport, entertainment, I am a winner, I’m somewhat fashionable (laughs)… I am not afraid of new challenges.”

You remained diplomatic on Zirkzee and said Milan are not a charity…

“There is a list of attackers that we study. A club like Milan doesn’t target one player, then you have to understand what the best option is. Then even if he is strong I want to see him face to face, if he is ready to play under pressure.

“There are 80,000 fans at San Siro who are either booing you or cheering you, or ignoring you. There are many factors involved.”

Has it been difficult to balance your ego with your new role, given you were a very good player and you might be working with those not as strong?

“Many former players bring this ego when they join the club, because they won, because they were great players and they think they know everything. I do the opposite, I have a lot to grow and learn.

“Whoever has a role does it better than me, I don’t get involved with the coach for example, or with Furlani. I don’t try fit into different roles, I don’t think I do better than others. I go in a little innocent.”

Why have you not spoken until now?

“To talk you have to have something to talk about. It’s not a podcast or a talk show where I make promises I don’t keep. We communicate when there is something to say and something concrete. Speaking in front of the camera is not my way of working.

“Then we work every day. We chose not to go into direct communications, it wasn’t my show. In difficult moments that happen during the season, the important thing is to stay united to work on the same path. We are not satisfied as are the fans.”

There are more and more Americans coming into Italian football…

“After a while the Americans gain experience of our football, even in communication. I know how they work. There are people who know, who have experience in Italian football and manage things in the right way. There is a mix between Americans and us Italians.”

Do Milan have a big budget to spend?

“Everything positive is invested in the first team, because we want to improve it. Then there is the Under 23s, but the heart of the budget is on the first team. What we do is invested there. In Milan we collaborate between Moncada and Furlani and decide what is best. Then in the end I make the decisions and they follow me (laughs).”

Why was Fonseca the right man?

“For us he is a top coach otherwise he wouldn’t be the Milan coach. Something new arrives, with a different kick than before. A dominant, attacking football arrives, with the balance of defending which is important.

“It will be another energy, another face on the bench, the other is bald and he has more hair (laughs). Both of them are always classy.”

Your social media posts are always enigmatic?

“Either you take them seriously or not. This social media I enjoy, or send messages. Or indirect messages. You have to be an inspector to understand the situation, sometimes I play too.”

Will there be a loss of leadership without Kjaer and Giroud?

“This is why we also chose Fonseca. Next year’s team will be younger and he likes working with young players. When you lose Giroud, Kjaer, the average age of the squad drops quite a bit.

“It is important to have a coach who brings young people to their best. In the first team you have the responsibility to bring results, age doesn’t matter. We lose two leaders, which is why Fonseca’s role is important.”

What steps are to be completed to compete with Europe’s elite?

“We were in the semi-finals of the Champions League two years ago. There are moments. We want to have stability in which to fight against the biggest clubs in Europe. We want to start in Italy, giving competition to the players who are there today to improve more. Always with profiles that we want to have.”

What would your message be to the fans?

“The future is bright. We are also international here. I do everything to win.”

Would you give your number out to journalists?

No, I’m not ready (laughs).”

There is a lot of talk about Camarda…

“He was more talented than me at his age. It’s important for us, it’s the future of Milan. He doesn’t have all the responsibilities on him but he is still young. We want to protect him, make him grow and make him become what he can become. He is very hungry and wants to improve. You have to take it step by step with him.”

“The talents of the Milan Academy prove that we need to strengthen ourselves more. A club like Milan must have a strong youth sector, which creates profiles to reach the first team. Today little happens, not enough.

“The gap between the Primavera and the first team is large, which is why the Under 23 project is important. We want to give players more time to become adults. In the Primavera they jump to the first team too quickly. Camarda hasn’t started yet, now he has to do it.”

You bid an emotional goodbye to Sweden over the weekend…

“The adrenaline is gone. What I did for Sweden, what Sweden did for me. I opened the doors to the new generations. When I started, it wasn’t easy in Sweden. I fought against everyone, I won.

“I have to thank them for what they did. My farewell to Milan was a shock, then after a year I was used to not playing but I was happy. I personally will remember this day for the rest of my life.”

 

Tags AC Milan Zlatan Ibrahimovic

24 Comments

  1. Interesting from a PR point of view. Zlatan is basically an influencer for the club, he’s trading his credibility among the fans for a good position and Redbird’s stock. He was brought in to calm the fans after the sack of Maldini and the sale of Tonali. He was reportedly not for Fonseca but here he endorses him. The point of PR is to create the news and sell it to the media and the audience. The news created here are clear: we want to win. Ok, easy to say. When? “In the future”. So not now. “We are thinking about the the third star”. Again, easy to say.

    Not long ago the project was to be sustainable, develop young players with potential in order to win trophies. We are sustainable and we won (from my point of view, Scudetto and UCL semifinals are wins, especially after years of drought, I know not everybody will agree). Then we started from scratch again with the same project. Now we are developing young players with potential in order to appear in UCL and develop the brand. Seems like a step back in ambitions but the hope is that eventually/hopefully “in the future” we’ll be able to win again. Let’s see now if we can keep our top players Théo, Mike and Leao as he said so, allowing us to compete rather sooner than later, or if we’ll embrace the trading philosophy that could keep us at bay for years. I think this summer will be a big assessment of where we’re going.

  2. “Many former players bring this ego when they join the club, because they won, because they were great players and they think they know everything. I do the opposite, I have a lot to grow and learn.

    “Whoever has a role does it better than me, I don’t get involved with the coach for example, or with Furlani. I don’t try fit into different roles, I don’t think I do better than others. I go in a little innocent.”

  3. Zlatan the player who i at least adored always paraded himself as a lion god and now he pretty much parades himself as a dog in a leach.

    He is also rather self contradicting as he first is very adamant about that maignan, theo and leao wont leave then later on he sorta backtracks on that statement to some extent.

    He is apparently also Italian now.

    Best of wishes in his job but im yet to be convinced about zlatan the coorporate stooge who seems to blow hot and cold.
    In the end though lets all hope for the best as its in all of ours interests that he succeeds at the club.

    1. At the end of the day Zlatan is the quintessential mercenary.
      Malmo,
      Ajax,
      Juve
      Inter
      Barca
      Milan
      Psg
      Man U
      LA
      MILAN

      His loyalty is to himself.

      Great player and i appreciated what he did for Milan but he is the polar opposite of Maldini

      1. Well to some extent because I think he would have loved to have stayed at both Barcelona and AC Milan had things been different both in regard of Guardiola and AC Milans finances but I do nevertheless tend to agree with your overall assessment. I definitely perfer Maldini and Zlatan isnt even comparable to him in my book but his downfall was that he was too open mouthed in interviews and Zlatan seems to have learned of that lesson.

      2. They way he answered the two star question lacks about of feel from a true Milan fan’s POV. If he’d been here longer he might have understood but maybe because he’s been to so many clubs he can’t quite fully grasp what certain things mean

    2. I did notice the contradicting statements on Maignan and Theo. First “they will stay” then later ‘anything is possible’… Not sure what to make of that.

      Seems like Zlatan is a hybrid Sporting Director now…

      1. He realized he promised something he cannot keep. It is how he said. If people don’t want to stay they can’t force them to.

  4. He was always the guy with direct approach. Now he’s clumsy and cringe trying to act diplomatic. He sounds as if Cardinale’s holding him by his balls. It doesn’t suit his character.

  5. “Yes, yes, they will stay. Maignan, Theo and Leao remain, they are among the strongest in the roles they play. They have a contract with us, they stay and they are happy. We don’t need to sell.”
    Let’s hope it’s not just talk and that something is actually being done about their renewal.

  6. A brilliant observer you’re Martin.

    a lot play in the role of management and King Zla has learned well from it.

    like he mentioned every powerhouse in the management each has an idea plus profile they want. for them to come together an agree on one profile shows there is unity in Redbird. A conspiracy theory claims the only way America will fall is a civil war from within.

    Gerry has imposed that theory well into Milan. if we don’t fall from within with time our output will be stronger and at the way things are going. when the time comes/ prob not This Milan will be super strong we will appreciate this american theory and clap for this management.

    you complain being a milan fan.
    liverpool fans waited for more than 23yrs
    arsenal fans are still waiting despite sending over 150M every season for the past 3yrs
    Man utd & Chelsea fans won’t even see much in few yrs to come.

    this are clubs we compete with in europe.

    look outside the box not enough club is doing great like milan so pls and pls let support this club and reduce the mediocrity.

    1. Thanks for the kind words.

      Im sure in the long run the club will further blossom but even though cardinale can make his choices as the owner i will nevertheless disagree with him sacking maldini even though i had wondered if it may happen after maldinis comments after our cl semi final elimination as he expressed that we needed better investments to take the next leap.

      Not sure if you mean that i complain as a milan fan or its directed at others but i can say i rarely complains about the club, coaches or players but overall i think we are doing fairly well but still with great room for improvements.

      I appreciate that both elliot managment and redbird has helped improve the finances of the club but long term i think a club like milan and its fans at least can expect an approach where the financial floodgates are opened wider up but my guess is that it wont happen before a new stadium is built.

  7. Aaahhhh man so much to unpack. This is like about a 20 article spinoff..easily! Get on it guys! 😂
    Where to begin? First of let’s thank Redbird for having Zlatan give us this interview 🤭
    Thanks also for clarifying your role Zlatan (also sarcasm btw).
    You’re an operating partner of Redbird….you work with Cardinale and with Moncada and Furlani. I hadn’t realized this before the interview.

    But to be completely fair, (and the above isn’t really trying to come down hard on Zlatan, I just think he’s being played), Ibra does seem the only that speaks like someone with Milan’s history barring of course the way he answered that Inter getting the second star question. I guess its the PR way of saying things but a true Milanista know it hurts.

  8. Cardinale and his scam works. He is just bringing Zlatan infront so that he and his management could screw this team from behind. So far no ambition shown by the owner and management group to make a championship team.

    1. The management is smart. From all available coach, the choose between lopetegui or fonseca.

      Really genius management.

    1. Yea he sounded like Gerry alot there. And maybe there is some ego ngl. The absolute great of greats aren’t simple humble people in terms of ego….ibra included.. Maldini, Messi cr7. All of them. It’s why they are the best of the best. And it’s applicable to mostly any genre.
      Ibra also took exception in an interview about when Maldini had fired Gattuso. Talking along the lines about that the shared bonds as teamamtes should have counted for more and such. And that Maldini as a director seem to have change from that as a player…while now Ibra himself is taking about being a director means not being friends with players. Quite ironic imo. But as a player you don’t know what directors have to deal with until you are one. Things come full circle. It’s not the first time he’s said something about Paolo tbh.
      There’s no need for all the jiber jabber. Focus on the huge task ahead. Go do better than him and then talk lol.

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