Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Milan can reach the Champions League, reveals how Stefano Pioli convinced him and why you ‘either hunt or get eaten.’
The Swede spoke to former Rossoneri teammate Massimo Ambrosini for Sky Sport Italia and you can read the rest of his comments here.
Ibra admires coach Pioli and reveals he had originally intended to leave Milan this summer.
“I told him I would call it a day, as I thought of the sacrifices and my family being in Sweden. Pioli said: ‘I respect that.’ However, the next day, he called me again. ‘I let you go too easy, but if you don’t stay, it’ll be a different team.’
“I went on vacation, but then I thought this is a fascinating and difficult challenge. I didn’t want to hang up my boots feeling regret. So I called Mino (Raiola) and told him to close the deal.
“I like the way the coach asks us to play, as he found a way of getting the best out of my qualities. He talks to me a lot and asks me things, just like I do with my teammates. They respect me and I feel that sense of responsibility, I relish it.”
Milan are currently five points clear at the top of the Serie A table and have qualified for the Europa League Round of 32.
“The team is hungry, but we don’t have objectives or dreams, we take it one game at a time. It’s a young team, they are not accustomed to winning, but the important thing is they mustn’t start to relax, and that’s where I come in. We know this isn’t Inter or Juventus, who have much larger squads, and we saw against Rio Ave (in the Europa League play-offs) that the pressure affected them when they actually had to play for something.
“I think this team can aim for Champions League qualification. Quality and talent isn’t enough, though, you need sacrifice and discipline.”
Ibrahimovic sees himself as a leader and recognised these traits in documentary series The Last Dance.
“I am not Michael Jordan, but I have that way of working. It’s a winning mentality. I am demanding, I do not accept a misplaced pass, because at this level we are all here to put in a performance. In my world, I do everything to win, so if you make a mistake, it’s natural it will be pointed out.
“Some might say I over-do it, but if I am still here and have won everything that I’ve won, there is a reason. Not everyone realises what it’s like to be under this pressure for such a long time.
“Either you hunt and eat the prey or you get eaten. I chose to eat.”