As with anything in his career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic creates expectation, anticipation and excitement with what’s next for him, and it was no different on his return to Milan.
Admittedly, given he’s now 38 and had been plying his trade in MLS for the past two seasons, there were doubts over how much he could really offer at this stage of his playing career.
SEE MORE: Five key talking points as Ibrahimovic leads Milan to win over Cagliari
With his experience and personality, there was little doubt that he could have a positive impact on what is a young Milan squad, but in terms of his influence on the pitch, would he be capable of being a leading figure for us once again, eight years on after leaving?
The answer is starting to become clearer after just a game and a bit, and there are stand-out positive signs as far as Milan fans are concerned with what we’ve seen from the Swede thus far.
Desire still very much there
With his adventure under the bright lights of Los Angeles over, a return to Europe to potentially close out his career coupled with speculation that he could make between €3m-€5m a year over the course of his deal, as per MilanNews.it, you’d be forgiven for thinking he may just want a comfortable run before retirement.
However, from his words off the pitch and actions on it, it’s clear that the desire to succeed is still very much there and he is relishing the challenge of trying to get Milan back on track in our bid to return to the Champions League.
This is a different Ibrahimovic in some ways, as he’s showing leadership in advising some of the younger players like Rafael Leao while showing a great deal of patience in dealing with some of the mediocre play around him from less talented players compared to those who surrounded him last time he was a Milan player.
Despite all those challenges and reasons to just be content with a final spell in Italy before hanging up his boots, it looks as though he’s here to prove a point and make a decisive impact.
Quality never left him
Again, not to harp on about his age, the injury he suffered at Man Utd and the period playing in MLS, but it was perhaps questionable as to whether Ibrahimovic would be good enough to still be influential.
While we saw positive signs against Sampdoria after he came off the bench, he didn’t disappoint in his first start in the win over Cagliari at the weekend as he scored our second and effectively killed the game.
From his movement in the box to find space to the superb finish from a difficult angle and with plenty to do from the cross, the quality is certainly still there.
Add the ability to drop deep and orchestrate things in the final third as well as his physical presence in the box and linking play up, this isn’t prime Ibrahimovic but it’s undoubtedly still a top version of him.
ZLATAN’S BACK 🦾
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s scored his first #SerieA goal of the season for AC Milan pic.twitter.com/YsnMeL8vTO
— Around The Grounds 🏟 (@ArndTheGrnds) January 11, 2020
Should only get better
Despite his lack of playing time over the last month or two, he managed to get 96 minutes under his belt in Sardinia and didn’t really look like he was struggling towards the end.
As he gets his match fitness up to where it needs to be and feels stronger and sharper with more playing time, Ibrahimovic will know himself that he’ll be able to offer more if he can remain healthy.
We shouldn’t be looking at the Swede as the saviour this season and simply just put everything on his shoulders and expect him to deliver week in and week out. That said, he’s already made his mark and if he can stay fit, he’ll surely just improve as the games come and that’s a promising thought for Milan fans.