Though the energy seems to have truly run out of the AC Milan title charge this year, legendary striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not giving up. Despite being nearly 40, the Swede has played a huge role in galvanising Milan over the last year. Taking a dysfunctional team of non-winners and turning them into a hungry unit that can attack and defend, Milan looked a good bet for the 2021 Scudetto title. A 3-0 mauling from rivals Internazionale in the derby del Madonnina has shaken belief amid a shocking run of results, but for Milan, there has been a key change in mentality. In previous years, they would wilt.
If nothing else, next year should see the Rossoneri back to the UEFA Champions League where the ‘belong’. And a key part of that resilience is Zlatan himself. However, he has been speaking to domestic media in Sweden recently and gave an illuminating interview regarding his young teammates at Milanello. Speaking about the condition of the team and what he expects from younger players to Discovery+, Zlatan was his useful self-assured self as he gave a number of intriguing answers on his expectations for the youth of Milan.
What did Ibrahimovic have to say about young players?
When talking to the channel, he spoke about how Milan is a totally different environment now to the one in which he arrived. Asked about what has changed, he gave a typical answer, saying that he has “Zlatanised” the manager, Stefano Pioli, adding: “He arrived at a Milan side where the atmosphere was difficult. If we are where we are now, it is thanks to the work he’s done, as he is a great coach.
“He has the right mentality and expects a lot of the team, even if it’s quite a young squad. Perhaps he has more patience than me, but then he is older and more mature than me too.
“Pioli is accustomed to situations where he had to fight to stay in Serie A, and obviously that is different compared to fighting to be at the top. It’s different pressure, but still very stressful. Pioli was not accustomed to working with top players, but he has the experience and proved himself to be a great coach. Now there is no doubt that he is suited to this level.”
However, his most intriguing comments came when discussing his lack of patience with the youth movement at Milan. Speaking about that, he added: “When you play at this level, it’s the same pressure, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you are here, then you deserve to be here and nobody is meant to wait around for you.
“I don’t care if you are young or not, there’s no time to waste in Milan. You have to play well now. If I don’t play well, Milan will sign another striker, it’s the same for everyone.
“Obviously, off the field it’s different. If you are Rafael Leao, I’ll take to you in a certain way, if you’re Simon Kjaer and more mature, you’ve got kids, obviously it’s different. But on the pitch, we are all the same.”
Clearly, Zlatan is running out of patience with the youth movement; will Milan look to get him some help in the summer so that he can bow out with some trophies in the bag?