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Monday November 23 2020
Just how good is Zlatan Ibrahimović?

Rising to the occasion yet again with a dazzling two-goal performance on Sunday against Napoli, Zlatan Ibrahimović continues to age like fine wine but his injury is a matter of concern, writes Matthew Santangelo.

After a much needed reset and re-charging of the batteries these past few weeks during the international break, Milan faced one of their most important tests of the season thus far in Napoli.

Entering the match, the Rossoneri found themselves alone at the top of the Serie A table in first and feeling good about the current state of affairs. On Sunday, Gennaro Gattuso’s Partenopei presented a real challenge that would measure just how well the red and black stack up amongst those vying for the league title.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli and his trusted assistant manager Giacomo Murelli each continued their recovery procedures from covid-19, leaving former defender Daniele Bonera to lead the squad into Naples where they have not won in over a decade. Certainly, it would require something special from a certain someone for the visitors to exercise their San Paolo demons.

Enter Zlatan Ibrahimović.

The 39-year old, who entered the weekend as top scorer ahead of Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, came out of the tunnel roaring, barking orders, spearheading the attack and serving as the reference point for which those around him strive to play off.

At times, it seemed as though Napoli’s strategy was to man-mark the Swede with multiple defenders and essentially keep him isolated from the rest of the attackers. For most, that tactic would yield success, but Ibrahimović is simply built differently, requiring only the slightest windows to exploit and a half-chance to pounce exemplary of his lion-like moniker he so confidently embraces.

Lurking around the top of the penalty area with Kalidou Koulibaly and Mario Rui keeping a close eye on him, Ibrahimović instinctively took a position that Theo Hernandez both recognized and had the utmost confidence in the star striker pulling off a solo moment of brilliance.

Ibrahimović’s glancing, redirected header would leave Alex Meret defenseless towards the back post for the first goal. But just when you thought you had seen it all from Serie A’s October MVP, he pulled out more magic.

After Hakan Calhanoglu released the key pass into space behind the defense for Ante Rebic, Ibrahimović ensured his onside position before finishing off the Croatian’s cross with his knee.

Truly, it was an emphatic finish that we have come to know, love and expect from Zlatan, yet still were in awe of.

Despite leaving the match early with an apparent leg injury, Ibrahimović’s brace propelled Milan to the 1-3 victory, reclaiming sole possession of first after Sassuolo had temporarily claimed it earlier in the day.

In the process, he became only the fourth ever to score in his first six Serie A appearances of a season.

Though we have yet to learn the severity of the injury, one could only assume the medical marvel that is Zlatan will do everything in his power to return soon, pile onto his current 10 goal output and ultimately help Milan meet every seasonal objective.

The Swede could remain out of action up to a month and it remains to be seen how Stefano Pioli would replace him. Ante Rebic is likely to move up front while Ibra is on the sidelines with Brahim Diaz replacing the injured Rafael Leao on the left.

Ibra missed four games due to Covid at the beginning of the season, Rebic replaced him in two Serie A games against Crotone and Spezia while youngsters Lorenzo Colombo and Daniel Maldini played up front in Europa League against Bodo/Glimt and Rio Ave respectively.

The Rossoneri managed four wins from four games. Will they be able to keep it up without their best player?

@Matt_Santangelo

Have your say...
@ Vero Rossonero and Milan Fan Oh dear, one mention of Balotelli and it all goes to pot! A young Balotelli actually played with Ibrahimovic and was hugely influenced by him. Like I said in my comment, the big difference is Ibrahimovic has delivered titles and goals. I'm not doubting Ibrahimovic's ability or importance. Ironically his impact is similar to that of Balotelli when he signed for Milan and dragged us into the Champions League in 12/13 scoring 12 goals in 13 games (very symmetrical).
on the 24th November, 2020 at 9:18pm
@Maldini's Heir. Balotelli does not even belong in the same sentence as Ibrahimovic. Ibra has been a committed professional since he put on boots with a burning desire to succeed. This is why he is playing at this level at 39. Balotelli is 30 and can't even get a contract with a Serie C club. Not even MLS or China. He invariably falls out with every club he plays for. It is unfortunate, as he was/is extremely talented. But without a winning mentality there is nothing. Just ask Ronaldo and Messi.
on the 24th November, 2020 at 4:35pm
ibrahimovic is ridiculous it is absurd that he can maintain these levels at age 39.

as for his absence it is going to hurt rebic is the obvious solution it is going to require a different approach in the attack. The attack was short anyway colombo is not a viable alternative at this time milan probably needs to go out and buy a player mid season who is capable of playing in the right wing and centre forward positions and loan colombo out so he can develop.
on the 24th November, 2020 at 11:54am
At 39 Ibra shouldn't be chasing down defenders but at times he still does, just not the whole game and that's fine as he contributes enough in and around the box better than most. He has to be economical because no 39 y/o cant give 100% every game and play 30 games a season.

Nobody is on Messi or Ronaldo's level but he's been on the level below with Lewandowski
on the 24th November, 2020 at 11:52am
As always, we have some crazy dudes in here saying funny crap like "Ibra is no more than a good player" , "he gets away with it!! without doing much!!!" , "he's like Balotelli"

These are hilarious remarks. It's funny, how no more than a good player can score 10 goals in 6 matches (Third player in history to score in every match?) at 39. Give me more just good players who can score goals like the first one against Napoli, please.
on the 24th November, 2020 at 9:45am
@Anonymous


"I have to say ibra is Milan at the moment. No Ibra? no one will fear Milan"


Lol...haters. So Milan is nothing without Ibra is that??
on the 24th November, 2020 at 9:26am
@ForzaAC

"maybe at Dzeko/Lukako level."


What has Lukaku accomplished compared to Ibra let along Dzeko?

Granted he is not on level as Messi and Ronaldo, but clearly a much more vital player than the two average players you mentioned before. Are you sure you @shouldnt be Inter FC?
on the 24th November, 2020 at 8:07am
@ ForzaAC I agree with you to a certain degree. He gets away with it because he delivers both with goals and titles. I don’t know how he does it. He seems to instil belief in other players and lift the whole side without actually doing much except barking orders! He’s very similar to Balotelli who tried to imitate him with far less success!
on the 24th November, 2020 at 7:30am
I have to say ibra is Milan at the moment. No Ibra? no one will fear Milan.
on the 24th November, 2020 at 3:34am
@ForzaAC: Ibra at a Dzeko/Lukaku level is great. It's the best we've had since...Ibra. "No where near the level of Messi or Ronaldo"...what's your point? Ibra is having a massive impact on this squad. It's incredible, but I've never been happier to have a 39 y/o player. I mean, how many times is one even able to say that? Most players are retired at that age. I do agree that Hauge should play more. I've always said Leao is the sub for Ibra, Hauge for Rebic. I think he'll be at LW on Thursday...
on the 24th November, 2020 at 12:38am
What a result, what a run! Ibra did really well for the two goals and had some good hold up play but the team as a whole brought home this result. There’s no I(bra) in TEAM! I don’t know what effect he’s had on the team. If he’s the one responsible for the new found belief then that’s just remarkable. But they do have that belief and they’ve shown themselves and others what they can do. If Ibra is injured others can step up. Rebic is a different type of CF that can provide more movement.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 10:15pm
Am I the only one that thinks Ibra is no more than a good player who can give defences problems he has always waited for everyone else to do the leg work and waits to be found in the penalty area,even in his youth he wasn't a great grafter for the team and for someone so big & strong used to go down easily,
He's nowhere near the level of Messi and Ronaldo, maybe at Dzeko/Lukako level.
I would give more playing time to Houge who is a smart player.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 6:01pm
Milan's initial game plan will work regardless of Zlatan, but if we are ever in trouble, we're gonna be screwed without him. Long balls towards Ibra has been one route for Milan whether we're under pressure or simply as an alternative way to get goals. We're not gonna have that anymore and that's a big blow. His absence will be felt.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 5:46pm
His is one of the greatest of all time, a fantastic player. Richard Keys used to call him ' the most overrated player on the planet' when he played for Inter and was winning championships, a quick (unsuccessful) switch to UEFAlona in the Spanish league covered of course by Keye's employer Sky changed his opinion of Ibra to 'the third best player on the planet'. Viva Ibra!
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 5:17pm
There is only one Ibra - there's no replacing him. but if Milan want to be taken seriously as a contender domestically and achieve CL, they have to find ways to win without Zlatan. Pioli needs to figure out his rotation ASAP as Zlatan was never going to be fit the entire season. With Leao out as well, Pioli needs to incorporate Hague and Diaz into the mix, as Samu is just worthless ATP and Alexis needs to improve his form.

Milan can still clinch their objective as it has a lot of potential!
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 5:07pm
Let's not forget about Hauge too. Great goal last night from the ever-more promising youngster.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 4:37pm
This is a good test for Milan, we need to learn to win without Ibrah. Leoa/Rebic/Columbo need to step up to fill the boots.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 2:29pm
Ibra is magnificent and his injury is definitely a blow but not the end of the world. The team is playing well and I think Rebic or Colombo(I thought he did well yesterday) can fill in for a few games. It was a tough game though and I think we should rest most starters in the Europa League.We have Colombo,Hauge,Samu,Diaz,Maldini Jr,Krunic,Tonali,Dalot,Kalulu,Gabbia all of whom can fill in and get match rhythm and experience.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 2:22pm
Ibra remains a force of nature on the front line. No matter how hard Napoli tried they could not stop this ageless wonder from scoring and threatening the defence. Ibra certainly deserves to be included in any discussions of clutch players and leaders in this era. Napoli must learn the one lesson that Ibra can teach all teams and players: that is that the confidence and desire to win is everthing on the pitch and winning is the result of hard play and self belief. Gattuso knows the difference.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 2:11pm
I'm totally impressed with how IBRA has been able to be the motivation, inspiration and the leader the young players look up to. Certainly, Milan will win without him though, he will be missed. They've done it before, and they will do it again.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 1:41pm
Zlatan is timeless. It is a pity he is in the same era of Cristiano and Messi, otherwise more credit will be given to him. He is an absolute monster
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 1:08pm
Losing Ibrahimovic for any length of time would be a blow for Milan, as he's been utterly imperious so far this season, but not a total disaster. The team's build-up play has been excellent, and Rebic is a very good finisher - I'm sure they can carry on getting goals even without Ibra.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 12:46pm
Ibra seems to be the best player in Europe at the moment considering his age and impact for his team.
on the 23rd November, 2020 at 12:44pm

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