While he may have only spent two years of his glittering career with AC Milan, there is no denying that Zlatan Ibrahimovic made a lasting impression on AC Milan and its supporters.
The talismanic Swede not only put together an impressive goalscoring tally of 56 goals in just 85 appearances for the Rossoneri, but more importantly, he was an influential leader in their Serie A title success of 2011.
His impact went beyond the statistics and trophies though, his flair and ability to create magic in the final third winning the hearts of Milan fans and ensuring his popular legacy that still exists today.
While Milan have seemingly finally addressed their biggest hole, adding a world-class striker to lead the line in Gonzalo Higuain, Ibrahimovic’s exit in 2012 for Paris Saint-Germain undoubtedly hurt them.
Four Ligue 1 titles later, coupled with a stop off in Manchester and his current glitzy stint in Los Angeles — where he has proven that at 37 he can still be the focal point of an attack and flourish — a temporary return to Milan is being touted in January.
Given what he brings on and off the pitch, it would surely be difficult to find many, if any, Milan fans, who would object to seeing the Swede back at the San Siro and potentially playing a pivotal role in their pursuit of Champions League football.
Provided he isn’t adamant on being a guaranteed starter if he is to return to Europe, a return to Milan would certainly make sense for a club that lacks quality depth in attack beyond Higuain and Patrick Cutrone to compete on multiple fronts.
That was never more evident than last month when the pair were sidelined with injuries and Samu Castillejo was deployed in a false nine role. Albeit that strategy worked in a 4-1 win over Sassuolo, it’s surely not a scenario that Gennaro Gattuso wants to find himself in again moving forward.
That’s where Ibrahimovic comes in. Aside from the fact that his form in MLS proves that he can still deliver, his leadership and experience will go beyond what he offers on the pitch.
From guiding Cutrone and helping him develop and progress in his career, to being a prominent voice in the dressing room for what is still a young squad in general, there simply is no doubt that Ibrahimovic could still be a fundamental addition for Milan.
Gattuso’s men are chasing a top-four finish in Serie A this season, while also hoping to improve on their run in the Europa League last year in case they need that as a fallback route back to Europe’s top table.
Relying on Higuain and Cutrone all season is a risk in the sense that it could be too demanding on the pair, while Ibrahimovic offers an entirely different option up front too given his attributes.
From the veteran’s perspective, it’s difficult to see how he could refuse a loan move. Again, the factor of not being first choice could be crucial, but beyond that concern he’d be re-joining a club he has made no secret of expressing his fondness for.
In 2016, when Ibrahimovic was mulling over his future, he was quoted as saying: “When I left Milan, it wasn’t my choice. I never wanted to leave.
“I love Milan and in my view it’s the biggest club I ever played for. My exit from Milan is the past and this is the future, we’ll see what happens.”
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