Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed his belief that AC Milan needed him given the struggles that the team had before his arrival.
The Swede has been nothing short of sensational since his return to the Rossoneri and currently leads the Serie A scoring chart with 10 goals from just six appearances, with Milan top of the league by two points having won in Napoli on Sunday for the first time in 10 years.
The impact that Ibrahimovic has made – even at the age of 39 – has not been understated in the media, and on Tuesday night he the Swedish Ballon d’Or for the twelfth time before reopening the door to a return to the national team
He gave a long interview granted to Aftonbladet during which he admitted that he misses the national team, offering some background on his return to Milan too.
“It’s something that has to come from him. Because if he thinks I’m a distraction, then I don’t care. If you think I can contribute, then I’ll think about it,” he said (via TMW).
“I want to be in the Friends Arena, I want to see the full Yellow Wall when I walk into the field in the yellow jersey. Do I miss it? Of course: if someone doesn’t miss it all, it means that he has ended his career. And I’m not done yet.
“What I repeat all the time is that I train very hard. I prepare myself very, very well. In my athletic program I am very professional. I dedicate as much time as possible to physical fitness and it is mainly my head.
“Then I placed a lot of pressure on myself: my team is one of the youngest in Europe and I don’t want to be compared to those of that age, but I don’t want to have any advantages because I’m older.”
Ibrahimovic went on to confirm that he nearly retired a year ago before deciding to return and play at a high level again in Europe, having had family time firmly on his mind.
“I wanted to open a new chapter in my life. Being with my family every day, following my children. Then Mino Raiola told me ‘You have to close in Europe! You have to prove that you are still at a high level, you can do it! Six months in Milan, after which you can quit. It’s too easy to quit in the United States’.”
On how he nearly joined Bologna: “Mihajlović had fallen ill. We talked and he asked me to go to Bologna and I replied that I would do it for free. Then I told him: ‘I’ll be honest: you won’t see the same Zlatan as ten years ago, the one you used to see when I was playing in Italy. I am completely different’.
“But then I saw Milan lose in Bergamo, a shameful defeat. We started feeling each other and I started feeling the adrenaline. To face the days in the best way you have to get your adrenaline pumping, you have to feel motivated.
“I wondered where I would have been most useful, Mino’s answer was to Milan. Only you can bring Milan back to what it was many years ago. In my head I had a vision: it was a difficult but not impossible situation, a certainly complicated challenge.
“They said I was 39 and that everyone who returned to the Rossoneri had failed. I replied that I would make it because I never lost my passion. The first six months were difficult: we didn’t know if he [Pioli] would remain the manager, I didn’t know if I would stay.
“The club wanted to change philosophy and guidelines, the team had been doomed before they had a chance to continue to achieve results. But that’s how we started climbing and today we are stronger.
“When it is so difficult and you still succeed, the feeling you get is impossible to describe.
On the off-pitch issues: “I try to focus little on what happens off the pitch. To those who lead the club I said: ‘The headache you have there, don’t pass it on to the pitch because you can’t work quietly’.”
On his leadership: “I have grown more and more in this aspect. What is a leader? There are leaders in different ways. I have heard comments in Sweden: ‘He gestures on the pitch’. First of all, I am who I am. I cannot change my appearance, I can’t change who I am, my play style is the way it is. I react based on who I am. Everyone has their own profile, we are leaders in different ways.
“Do I ask a lot? Yes. Do I push hard? Yes. If I accept a wrong pass? No. I am like this and my team understands me. Everyone has understood me. All I do is get the best, a reaction. I come to Milan and they want it to be like that. They say: ‘Do what you have to do, we will follow you’.”