Tuesday February 4 2020
Ibra the figure Bonucci could've been

Where Leonardo Bonucci and Gonzalo Higuain failed, Zlatan Ibrahimovic can succeed at shouldering the Milan burden, argues Ramez Nathan.

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?   

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Have your say...
Piątek shot 11 goals for AC Milan in 2nd half of 2018-19 in 21 matches (his goals brought 6 points in Serie A table and win in Coppa quarter-finals against Napoli).
Who bets $$$ Ibra shall score 11 total in Spring 2020 (he scored 2/4 till now bringing no table points)?
on the 8th February, 2020 at 8:56am

Did you actually use the word Troglodyte? LOL

You are pretty much entirely alone in thinking ""Ibrahimovic is, unequivocally, the worst role-model any club can bring into the equation" No-one was denying that players like Maldini, nests etc were legends, it does NOT take away the fact that Ibra is at least on same level as Del Piero on legend status.

As for calling people on a personal level out on a football blog says a lot of your character and human being. Grow up
on the 7th February, 2020 at 9:02am
@maldini 's heir - you always make it out to sound like milan are unlucky with players - rather than them being terrible. Average players look good at small clubs. They get more space, the team doesn't sit back defending and they aren't usually man marked. There are many many 1 season wonders - its why they are cheap options as nobody knows how they will go! If they proved themselves, they suddenly double in price. Also the players suggested would want wages far beyond milan could ever offer lol
on the 7th February, 2020 at 2:35am
PS It's not about just playing 433 but putting together a coherent team and squad where players compliment each other. Bonaventura, Çalhanoğlu and Suso basically cancelled each other out because they're too similar. Had any of them been complimented with pace (out wide) then it would've opened up the pitch for them. That is why I was pushing for pace down the left.
on the 6th February, 2020 at 11:36pm
@ paolo We won't know anything about Piątek until we see how he goes at Hertha. I wouldn't call any run of form a "fluke", more like a player reaching their potential. I could've talked about Higuain or any number of strikers who have failed at Milan but I prefer to focus on the more recent failures. As for Suso, again we'll see when he's at Sevilla, but Milan have not had a decent manager since Allegri....
on the 6th February, 2020 at 11:34pm
@ dami I agree my team is lacking pace but that is what we're left with after the January madness. A 41212 formation does not require as much pace anyway and that could come from the more advanced Conti and Hernandez. We need goalscorers so I've proposed signing two just to be safe! Maybe we just onbe if Leão is any good. As for Matic I was looking at free, experienced players who will sit on the bench and not get in the way of Bennacer.
on the 6th February, 2020 at 11:31pm
Ibra wasn't brought in for a long term solution but for now he definitely provides something that was missing. The team plays with more belief and his presence is noticed even when he doesn’t do much.
Besides of his qualities as a player, I’m far from being an admirer of the person himself – by some measure far (I went to the Timbers-Galaxy match just so I can yell at him) – so having him back gives me mixed feelings, it’s like a pill that I can neither swallow nor spit out.
on the 6th February, 2020 at 10:04pm
you can't simply put piatek and suso form entirely down to milan especially when other players have been more consistent playing out of position. you really can't use tactical setup as a excuse especially for suso milan basically played a front 3 for 3 years to suit him. as for piatek he played in a front 2 for milan and didn't score yet ibra a 38 year old did.

you would be much better off pointing out a top player like higuain struggled at milan rather than making excuses for piatek.
on the 6th February, 2020 at 9:16pm
@maldini heir

so what he had a fluke run with genoa you look at marco borriello in 2008 he smashed it at genoa there is such a thing as a fluke run of form. you look at piatek stats in the box they are horrible even at genoa in half a season he had 0 Ariel wins a 11% touch to shot rate and this was him in form.

as for suso you are defending a player with a worse pass completion rate than kessie, bennacer and bonnaventura.
on the 6th February, 2020 at 9:03pm
@Maldini's Heir you're simply deluded. Matic would be on absurd wages and would end up like Biglia, whereby he becomes useless and impossible to shift due to the high wages. The team you've listed has the same issue as our team from last year, zero pace. Look how much players like Theo have opened up the pitch for us this year, he's quick. We need pace in key positions, not 2 poachers up top on insane wages like Cavani and Suarez. That midfield is awful too. Awful XI.
on the 6th February, 2020 at 4:36pm
@ Maldini's heir Suarez and Cavani hahahahahah. Top players don't come to mid-table sides. Wake up !
on the 6th February, 2020 at 10:59am

yes, you troglodyte... I'm jealous of the fact that whilst having super-talent, Ibrahimovic is a primadonna, a diva, an attention-seeking oaf.

I'm jealous or even envious of the fact that I didn't idolise Ibrahimovic, and instead worshipped my favourite player Del Piero, and other world-class legends like Maldini, Nedved, Buffon, Nesta.

Thanks for the eye-opener. You can go back to yelling at your mommy for your ovaltine and breakfast now, pinhead.
on the 6th February, 2020 at 7:10am
Zlatan might only be in Milan for six months though so this article is pointless.
I also have to agree with victor on the post below. Even if some people consider zlatan
Overrated, this does not take away from the fact that he is a damn good striker. I watched some of the games and he has been finding space upfront that other players were not and almost scoring some headers and one time shots. I for one welcome him back and Milan will not do any worse with him and can only improve. Forza juve!
on the 5th February, 2020 at 11:40pm
@ paolo I am never sure what fans mean by "desire". I never thought that Suso or Piątek lacked effort. More a suitable tactical set up. When a player simply doesn't know where they're supposed to be or what they're supposed to be doing they can look lost. Which is what most of Milan players have looked like for the past 10 years. Did Suso or Piątek gain "desire" for Genoa and lose it for Milan? How can we explain players playing better for Genoa than Milan?
on the 5th February, 2020 at 11:27pm

" Ibra was overrated in his prime "

Bahahhahahah..yeah mate overrated... LOL
on the 5th February, 2020 at 10:31pm
@maldini heir milan has been run badly for the best part of a decade there is no dispute about that it is fair point that players are suffering from the clubs lack of management. still this is no excuse for suso and piatek you can see the desire is not there. ibra and samu have completely showed these guys up. simply compare them to romagnoli, donnarumma or bonnaventura who have been maintained decent standards for years.
on the 5th February, 2020 at 8:21pm
Clubs don't pay strikers for their personality, they pay them to score goals. In that vein you can be horrible as long as u produce. It's about also having a brain, that's what makes the difference. 
on the 5th February, 2020 at 3:49pm

"Ibrahimovic is, unequivocally, the worst role-model any club can bring into the equation"

Lol... Salty mate?
on the 5th February, 2020 at 8:09am
That team would get us into the top 4. The following season we need a CB, another CM and we need to see how the front three go and then we're challenging for the title. What a mess when we only needed one signing last summer......

PS All those people talking about money, Milan have wasted millions on pointless signings (e.g. we didn't need Kjær or Ibra - waste of salaries).
on the 5th February, 2020 at 6:08am
It would look like this: Donnarumma, Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Hernandez, Bennacer, Kessie, Bonaventura, Paquetá, Suárez and Cavani (41212) with Duarte covering for both CBs, Calabria for both FBs, Krunić for the 3 CMs with Çalhanoğlu also covering for Bonaventura and Paquetá and Leão and Rebić covering for the strikers and Castillejo offering the ability to switch formation. Plizzari, Rodríguez (CB and LB), Gabbia (CB and DM) and Matić would provide cover for injuries and suspensions.
on the 5th February, 2020 at 6:05am
(seriously)) Aubameyang, Suárez, Agüero, Lewandowski, Martial, Jiménez (Wolves) and (would need a lot more scouting) Morelos (Rangers). Surely someone like Suárez, Agüero or Lewandowski is bored and would take on the challenge of Milan? Meanwhile Man Utd and Arsenal have both missed out on Europe. Jiménez and Morelos are leftfield and would need to step up. Note A goal scorer is the hardest position to recruit for which is why it is such a travesty that Milan have gone through hundreds....
on the 5th February, 2020 at 5:58am
sign players for that formation. Personally my approach would be to work with the existing squad and figure out how to make as few changes as possible. I think I can get away with 3 new signings but we'd need to play 41212 with the option of 4231, 442 and 433. I think CM x 1 and CF x 2 should do it. Firstly we sell/release Begović, Laxalt, Kjær, Biglia, Saelemaekers and Ibra. We then sign Cavani and Matić (both available on frees) and go all out for another striker with the options being
on the 5th February, 2020 at 5:49am
Ok I've tried to figure out what to do with this mess. First thing is we need a proper manager. The following are realistic options (all being unattached, at "smaller" clubs or simply bored): Allegri, Pochettino, Emery, Rangnick, Santo (Wolves), Tuchel (bored) and Gasperini. Some of these coaches have had differing levels of success but all have the potential, if things go right, to lift the existing players to a new level and that is the key. Now the manager will need to decide a formation and
on the 5th February, 2020 at 5:45am
@ paolo There is literally no point in talking about the players because we have no idea what their ability is. Every single Milan player under-performs. Piątek was just the latest. Suso was still our leading assist provider and one of the leading assist providers in the league IN SPITE of how poorly Milan is managed. Had we signed a LW with pace that would have taken the pressure off Suso down the right. But we didn't. We kept playing Çalhanoğlu out of position.
on the 5th February, 2020 at 5:34am
Awful article.

Milan's sudden change in fortunes is down to nothing other than the calibre of opponents theyve faced since signing Ibrahimovic compared to the fixtures they had prior to signing him. Nothing more. Things are about to get a whole lot worse for Milan. Ibra was overrated in his prime and at 38 hes doing nothing more than chewing up valuable resources.
you're foolish to think anything else of the situation.
on the 5th February, 2020 at 3:07am
Selling Piatek makes no sense unless you can replace him by someone like Belotti at least. Top CF like Lukaku costs too much for Milan ( wouldn't join without UCL either ) and even players like Jimenez or Belotti wouldn't come cheap. So who are Milan seriously scouting to be their main forward next year?
on the 4th February, 2020 at 11:37pm
@Pinturicchio Zlatan may have an ego, but he loves to rile everyone up with his comments. It's mostly for fun. CR7, however, is an actual, clinical narcissist. The difference is that he doesn't run his mouth, he's got his sister to do that for him so she looks like the crazy one and he looks like the victim.
on the 4th February, 2020 at 11:20pm
Ibra is a force of nature and he has already changed the pschology of Milan. Beware taking the man or team lightly now, winning breeds confidence and more winning.
Some days on the pitch you don't need to be the best team but believe you are the best, with Ibra Milan thinks they have a chance to beat anyone.Milan may not be the team of it's glory years but it is wonderful to see the team competetive again and sometimes one man can change the perception and culture of an organization. Bravo Ibra!
on the 4th February, 2020 at 10:56pm
Btw piatek is not a top quality striker even toward the backside of last season he was showing his lack of ability. He isn't scoring goals he literally offers nothing even inzaghi who had no pace or power or skill managed to get defenders to come out of position.

as for suso seriously he guy has been stagnating for over 2 years at milan ever since his contracts went south he has been better than average. time milan cashed in.

i would admit however the caldara deal is absurd milan got ripped.
on the 4th February, 2020 at 9:18pm
Ibra already looks fed up barely a month in i think even his massive ego is not enough to deal with the excrement show which is ac milan. Still at least some of the younger players will have a idol to look up to. At the very least he can provide them with a example of how to succeed in football. I would be honestly surprised if he didn't retire at the end of the season,i don't get what keeps ibra going especially in a mid table team like ac milan.
on the 4th February, 2020 at 9:12pm

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