There was enthusiasm in the air as Adriano Galliani unveiled Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho at a press conference on Thursday, and the former Inter striker was ready to make waves immediately.
The Swede, who spoke in Italian and in English at times, was upfront and optimistic about his future with the Rossoneri, riling supporters of his former club Barcelona and cross-city rivals Inter along the way.
His confidence tones resembled that a boxer thrash-talking in the lead up to a world title-fight, allowing the assembled media to decide on some sensational headlines. He claimed that Milan is the best team he will have played for and “much stronger” than the reigning Serie A champions, Inter. He praised club-owner Silvio Berlusconi and the supporters for their reaction to his transfer – although initially on loan – pointing out the organisation of the Milanello training ground and his own comfort with his new surroundings. He interestingly revealed that he had come close to signing for Milan before his move to Inter four years ago but “finally” he is on the red and black side of the city. Not the statements one would expect from a player who claimed to be an Inter supporter growing up in Sweden.
In another dig at the ‘Nerazzurri’, now managed by Rafael Benitez, Ibrahimovic stated that he was now returning to Italy hungrier and more motivated than he has ever been. The consistent questionable body language that has gone some way to undermining the striker’s undoubted natural ability has been a persistent concern to fans and coaches from Malmo through to Ajax, Juventus, Inter and finally Barcelona. Having scored in his first four competitive matches for the Catalan giants, the enormous price-tag (plus the part-exchange of Samuel Eto’o) looked well on its way to being repaid. As the season went on however a rift between him and Head Coach Pep Guardiola saw the striker fall out of favour and young players such as Bojan and Pedro preferred to the multi-million-euro star.
Having made the late-summer switch to Milan, Ibrahimovic and fellow new signing Robinho are convinced that great things are to come of this newly assembled attacking unit, which also contains Pato, Ronaldinho and veteran Filipo Inzaghi. “I hope to win the league title and the Champions League and Milan is capable of doing it. I’m sure of it, just like I am sure that we are stronger and that we will finish first,” exclaimed the Swedish international, before adding that Inter would now finish behind them in second place. Ibrahimovic’s debut however did not go to plan in the modest setting of Cesena’s Stadio Dino Manuzzi, when Milan found themselves trailing by two goals before the loan-signing himself striking a post with a penalty.
Ibrahimovic will need to wait for another day to open his Milan account and play his part in winning the Scudetto, but with the attacking talent now available to Massimiliano Allegri, one senses that goals will come.