Three key challenges Ibrahimovic now faces after sealing Milan return

It’s official. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back with Milan and now the work begins for him to help us get back on track this season to achieve the all-important goal of bringing back Champions League football.

Losing the now 38-year-old back in 2012 was a bitter blow given how influential he was for us, and it was effectively one of the big reasons as to why we’ve never really come close to competing since.

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56 goals in 85 games, a Serie A title and Italian Super Cup in the trophy cabinet and the hearts of Milan fans secured during his two-year stint, there is no doubt that Ibrahimovic was, and still is, a hugely popular figure with us.

Things will look a lot different now though, and while at this stage of his career many will perhaps doubt his ability to make a positive impact for Milan, the quality, experience and winning mentality he can still bring to the table will hopefully make a world of difference for us even if it is just as a short-term fix.

Proving he can still deliver at high level

Given his ability to create something out of nothing, there will no doubt be more Ibra magic forthcoming between now and the end of the season to perhaps make the difference in close games.

It’s hoped that our defence stands strong to ensure that we’re in a position for his possible brilliance to be decisive, but at 38 and having been in MLS for the past two seasons, questions will naturally be asked about just how influential he can still be at this level.

It will be challenging, but looking at Ibrahimovic’s strengths in terms of his physicality, technical quality and ability to draw attention to create space for others to make an impact, those are attributes that don’t necessarily deteriorate with age like pace or movement do.

Given the mentality that he has adopted throughout his career and the hunger to prove his doubters wrong once again, it would come as no surprise if he still makes a big difference for us.

Getting best out of those around him

Just as he did with the likes of Antonio Nocerino, Kevin-Prince Boateng and others the first time round, a big reason behind bringing Ibrahimovic back will have been to help the current crop improve.

There is little doubt that if Suso, Hakan Calhanoglu or Franck Kessie aren’t performing to an acceptable level, the Swede will certainly let them know about it, be it on the training pitch or during a game.

That could go one of two ways, but if they want to win and enjoy half the success that he has during his career, they’ll listen, learn and develop their respective games and form important partnerships, assuming they continue to get the nod in the starting XI.

Ibra isn’t considered a traditional leader by most, but his ability to lead the line and help others flourish ensure that he can lead in a different way.

Leading Milan to the ultimate end goal

While it’s great to see him back, let’s not forget that there is an end goal to this move and that is Ibrahimovic playing a key role in getting us back into the top four.

It looks unlikely at this stage given our form so far this season and given we’re 14 points adrift. However, perhaps with more additions in January, we’ve still got enough time to put ourselves in a position to compete towards the end of the campaign.

If Ibrahimovic returns and helps lead us back into the top four, the decision to bring him back will be remembered as a stroke of genius. We’d much rather that outcome than be sitting down in May looking back at a failed nostalgic reunion, which we’ve already seen many of over the years.