Zlatan Ibrahimovic spoke of the anticipation that he feels ahead of the weekend’s Derby della Madonnina and the respect he feels for his teammates.
The 30-year-old began a lengthy interview with Milan Channel by revealing what it feels like heading into the Milan derby from a player’s perspective. The Rossoneri’s current top-scorer has already experienced the occasion playing for both teams.
“When we approach the derby there is always so much tension, all the newspapers talk about it, prestige is at stake for both clubs. It’s a great game and even more a challenge. The whole world watches and it is great to be able to play. It is also important for the Scudetto.
“The players are thinking about the game of course. What happens outside and with transfers is a thing for the directors, we read the newspapers and know everything, but we think only of Sunday’s game.
“We need to focus only on our game and not think about what Juventus are doing either. We are all prepared and waiting for the derby.”
The tall Swede offered his views on three teammates who have endured different fortunes during this season.
“When I see Thiago Silva I see me, but as a defender. There is no defender in the world more complete than him.
“Although I have had strong defenders as teammates, such as [Lilian] Thuram, [Gerard] Pique, [Fabio] Cannavaro and [Carles] Puyol, I think that Thiago is on another level.
“Abate has grown so much in my opinion. When I arrived I didn’t know him. Now I know if he is not on the field. He is a great person and has become an important player for the team.
“He has to be given the chance to play for the national team. For a player this is the best thing that can happen, it is a great honour to play for your country. If he continues then he will become a starter for the Azzurri.
“Robinho has missed a few goals, but I have gone wrong, even [Alexandre] Pato and [Filippo] Inzaghi have also gone wrong. there are times when the ball doesn’t go in, but the important thing is that the opportunity is created.”
Ibra also reflected on the Rossoneri’s long-term absentees.
“[Antonio] Cassano came to Milanello two days ago to do some testing, he is always close to the team, even if he is not here every day he is always close. He is a great player who we all love.
“I know that Rino Gattuso is still enduring some problems and I’m sorry because he is a great person, a great player for the team and he serves on the pitch and off it, because he is a great leader.
“For me especially it is important that he is okay first as a person and then as a footballer.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!