Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at Zlatan Ibrahimović. Ibrahimović turned out for AC Milan from 2010 until 2012 and made a return to the club in 2020.
Returning Players – Zlatan Ibrahimović
First Spell at AC Milan
Ibrahimović’s first spell at Milan was nothing short of a success. In his first season, 2010/11, the Rossoneri were victorious in their Scudetto pursuit. They fell short in both the Champions League (Round of 16) and Coppa Italia (semi-finals), but the league-winning campaign was enough for celebration.
For his hefty standards, the Swede’s 14 league goals weren’t necessarily incredible. Milan’s attack was so potent, however, with Alexandre Pato and Robinho also scoring 14. Ibrahimović, however, was the club’s leading scorer in all competitions with 21 goals.
Milan finished second in Serie A in Ibrahimović’s second year with the club. Falling short eventually proved detrimental, as it led to Juventus‘ supreme reign of the league for the last decade. With that being said, the Swede improved drastically statistics-wise. He scored 28 goals in the league and 35 in total for the season. Milan’s inability to win the league sent them down a financial tornado, however, and Ibrahimović was sold during the summer of 2012.
Teams That Ibrahimović Played for In Between
In his seven years away from Milan, Ibrahimović had quite the journey. He played for Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, and had a stint in Major League Soccer with the Los Angeles Galaxy. This isn’t a shocker, however, The Swede constantly jumps into new challenges, and is usually very successful in them.
He won a plethora of trophies while at PSG, and became the club’s leading scorer. Although this record was later broke by Edinson Cavani, Ibrahimović will go down with one of the most successful stints in club history. He was never able to achieve his goal of winning the Champions League, however.
The Swede then lasted one-and-a-half seasons with United. He proved his worth early on, taking no time to assimilate into the Premier League, but a devastating knee injury shortened his run.
His move to the United States was originally seen as his “goodbye” to the footballing world. His 52 goals in 56 league appearances for the Galaxy suggested otherwise, however. Clearly, there was a lot of gas left in the tank.
Return to AC Milan
Ibrahimović returned to Milan during the winter window in the 2019/20 season. The move was quite a shock, as Milan was severely struggling to get back to their winning ways nearly a decade prior. Ibrahimović’s adoration for his former club has always been evident, however, so he made it his mission to bring them back to the top.
Originally arriving on a six-month contract, his being back contributed to direct success. Ibrahimović decided to keep pushing.
Impact Upon Return
Milan are a completely different animal now. Ibrahimović’s talent and leadership is reinvigorating the squad.
His performances allowed them to have a great run of form post the COVID-19 break. They were too far back in the standings during his arrival last season to make the Champions League, but are on a clear path now.
Milan are currently second in Serie A. They’ve been first for the majority of the season but are now four points behind leaders Inter after defeat against their rivals at the weekend. With that being said, Scudetto dreams became foreign for a while. Now they’re a reality.
Ibrahimović currently has 14 league goals this season. What makes this special is the fact that he’s only played 13 matches. His impact on the field as a player is obviously still there. More than that, however, he is a natural leader and essentially a player-coach. The young Rossoneri squad looks up to him and shows up with grit every matchday knowing the Swede is there.