It was one of the worst summers in the history of the club, as in 2017 fan’s ambitions were sky high after new chairman Yonghong Li splashed €200m to rejuvenate a side that has been struggling for years.
With all that Milan have been through in the past decade, many fans will forget where Il Diavolo ended up that year in the Scudetto race, who was coaching, what position Fabio Borini played in or how much the club paid for Andre Silva. But one thing no Rossonero will ever forget is the centre-back drafted in and immediately made captain, Leonardo Bonucci.
That year, Milan paid reigning champions Juventus €40m plus €2m in bonuses, while agreeing on a €6.5m per year contract.
They paid almost one quarter of their summer budget on the 30-year-old, because they were signing one of the best centre-backs in the world but more importantly they were looking for a leader, a champion with lots of trophies under his belt, a man that could represent their revolution and take Milan back to where they belong.
This was point blank, Bonucci’s worst season in his professional career. The club conceded over 40 goals, failed to win more than half of their fixtures and were nowhere near the top four race, a result that pushed the Italian defender to return to the Old Lady with his tail between his legs.
Many feared shoving Krzysztof Piatek out the door to bring in a 38-year-old striker was madness, a repeat of the club picking a name rather than someone truly functional to their project. Bonucci and Gonzalo Higuain saw Milan as a step down, their chance to prove Juve were wrong to let them go, but that clouded their entire attitude at San Siro. Ibrahimovic, on the other hand, returned with the broad shoulders to carry an inexperienced and nervous squad. He doesn’t have to win over the fans, they adore him already, even more so now that he has come back to them. Nobody forgets Ibra.
It hasn’t been a month since the 6ft 5in hitman had moved back to the San Siro, yet everything about the club has changed. Stefano Pioli picked up a new formation, the defence has massively improved, while the likes of Rafael Leao, Ante Rebic and Samu Castillejo finally found their form upfront.
Marcus Rashford, a former teammate of the Swedish striker at Manchester United, said it best. "You will see the benefits in years to come. What I have learnt from him is irreplaceable."
For any Premier League follower it is fair to say that Rashford is currently by far Manchester United’s best player and as we see now Ibra’s new partner upfront Leao is all over social media, declaring how he’s living the dream by playing next to such an iconic athlete.
Ibra definitely is not the same player Milan signed 10 years ago, he won’t score the same amount of goals, but with his larger than life personality, he is clearly changing how thing are going in the dressing room and is guiding his teammates on the pitch.
This is the man who famously pinned his teammates to the dressing room wall if they didn’t give their all in training, let alone during a match. He might be a little slower now, but the attitude remains unbowed.
Milan won five consecutive games for the first time in two years. They have won five of the six games played since Ibrahimovic’s arrival, drawing with Verona when the Swede was not in the squad, while their record in the prior 17 games of the season had only six triumphs.
Well-known for his mic drop comments after the legacy he leaves at each club, Ibra has already guided Milan from the bottom half of the table to level on points with Cagliari and the Coppa Italia semi-finals, so how far can the giant take his beloved back to glory?