Life without Zlatan: How Milan can move forward if Ibrahimovic departs

As has been the case throughout his illustrious career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not been shy with sharing his opinions and in this case, when discussing his future at Milan.

The 38-year-old rejoined us in January on an initial six-month deal, with the club’s site confirming that there is an option included to extend it for another year.

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Amid talk of significant change at Milan this summer though, La Gazzetta dello Sport note how the Swede may not spend next season with us due to a number of key reasons, including his age, wages and the project moving forward which will focus more on young players.

In fact, Antonio Vitiello told MilanTalk this week that “it’s unlikely” that Ibra will stay on, and so with the inevitable void that he will potentially leave behind up front, how do the Rossoneri find the best solution?

Why Zlatan should stay…

It’s worth noting that the hope is that an agreement can still be reached and Ibrahimovic remains for one more year, With six goals and three assists in 13 games since his return in January, the veteran has shown that he can still make a decisive impact on the side.

Further, the tweet below from Opta shows that his presence in the team is having a positive influence on us and our results.

With that in mind, it would surely make sense to keep him for one season, as while it’s all well and good adding top talent and future stars, you need to balance that with experience and proven quality to ensure that we meet our short-term objectives too, just as Ibrahimovic has successfully done in the last few months.

Nevertheless, if the reports above are accurate and he does leave at the end of the season, Milan need to start planning ahead to find solutions to ensure that we’re not left short up top.

Current options

Part of Ibrahimovic’s positive impact since he came back has been his ability to guide and help develop the likes of Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic, and both have been crucial in our good form particularly in recent weeks.

In turn, perhaps the expectation is that the duo will step up and take on more responsibility when the time comes for them to replace their teammate. While the jury is still out on Leao to an extent, Rebic has shown since January that he can be a pivotal option to lead the line.

Importantly, the Croatian international has also proven himself capable of playing up top, giving us more energy and tenacity off the ball to perhaps adopt a style of play more suited to what Ralf Rangnick will demand, with the Guardian reporting this week that he has agreed to become our coach for next season.

With that in mind, it could be argued that we have options at our disposal already to replace Ibrahimovic, with the focus instead being directed towards bringing in more quality on the flanks to offer more support for those two.

Signing more likely

That said, with his height, physicality and technical skill to bring others into play, Ibrahimovic offers more than goals and assists as we need that alternative option up front to give our attack a different dynamic.

Rebic and Leao won’t be able to replicate his other attributes, and so for that reason to ensure we have a strong selection of forwards, the expectation is that we’ll sign someone if the Swede leaves.

Unsurprisingly, speculation is already rife, with Calciomercato reporting that Luka Jovic, Dusan Vlahovic and Sardar Azmoun are potential targets. The shortlist in truth is endless when you go back and read through the gossip over the last few months, and there are certainly some intriguing names being touted.

AZ Alkmaar starlet Myron Boadu is arguably among the more exciting names being linked, as noted by MilanNews, while Tuttomercatoweb have previously suggested that Memphis Depay is another option on Milan’s radar.

These type of players certainly fit the mould of what Rangnick might be looking for more so than Ibrahimovic, but given what they’ve done in their respective careers thus far, Depay and Jovic are arguably among the top options, with top talents like Boadu and Vlahovic perhaps on that next level and remain intriguing targets to ensure Milan have enough firepower to compete moving forward.

Either way, we need to go for quality over quantity and bring in a player that fits what we’re trying to build as that’s imperative rather than going for a big name merely for the sake of it.

If Ibrahimovic does leave, it will be a real shame as everything we’ve seen from him since January would suggest that he still has one more season at this level in him, albeit perhaps in an increasingly lesser role. That said, perhaps it’s time for Milan to think long term especially if we’re set for an important revolution this summer.