” I think I’m like wine. The older I get, the much better I get.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has always had plenty to say however part of what makes him so special is his capability to support even the boldest, self-aggrandising declarations with action.
It is something he has actually continued with unanticipated regularity during a 2020-21 season that has actually seen him score 14 goals in simply 12 league games to spearhead Air Conditioning Milan’s own unlikely difficulty at the top of Serie A – all at the age of 39.
His evergreen efforts have actually likewise seen him enter a special group, as the scorer of 500 club profession objectives.
This weekend, the Swedish striker will be securely in the spotlight, for great reasons and bad (more on that in a bit), as A/C face Inter in a Milan derby that might well help form the narrative of the present Italian top-flight title race.
‘ Dear Los Angeles, you’re welcome’
To get the full context behind Ibrahimovic’s existing European renaissance, we need to understand the journey he has actually carried out over the last few years.
The cruciate ligament injury he suffered in his 2nd season at Manchester United in April 2017 was one that can spell the end for players in their prime, never mind their mid 30 s, however the Swede battled back.
Transferring To America to join US side LA Galaxy was seen by some as a slip into semi-retirement ahead of a well-earned shift into the complete thing but 53 goals and a place in the MLS best XI two years running disproved that.
Then came the go back to Air Conditioning Milan, for whom he scored 42 times in 61 league video games to inspire to an 18 th Serie A title in 2011 and second-place surface the year after.
Eight years later, he was re-joining a really different Rossoneri – a fallen, faltering one. Certainly this was a relocation based upon romance as opposed to realism? Nope.
He joined with the club going to pieces in 11 th in Serie A. 10 objectives in 16 begins later on they had completed sixth and received Europe.
In normally sincere design, he declared that Milan would have won the league had he played the entire season, including that he was ” just heating up”.
True to form, he wasn’t joking.
‘ If I was here from day one we ‘d have won the champion’
Ibrahimovic’s numbers this season are stunning.
His objectives tally of 14 – making him Serie A’s joint second leading scorer – is unquestionably the heading. Only Romelu Lukaku and another evergreen forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, have more, with 16 each.
What is genuinely exceptional, however, is his ruthlessness and effectiveness in front of goal. He is currently scoring at a ratio of 1.17 goals per video game and clocking a strike every 69 minutes.
Only 2 gamers with objectives in double figures in Europe’s leading five leagues can better his minutes per goal – Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Atalanta’s Luis Muriel, who has actually netted routinely in spite of just 7 of his 20 league appearances this season being from the beginning XI.
Least minutes per objective
Finest record by gamers with 10 objectives in Europe’s top 5 leagues
Just Lewandowski has a much better objectives per game ratio than the Swede.
Goals per game
Highest rate by gamers with 10 objectives in Europe’s leading 5 leagues
His shot conversion rate of 24.56%puts him ninth in the list of all gamers in Europe’s top five leagues to have attempted 40 shots or more.
Finest shot conversion rate
Highest rate by gamers with 40 shots in Europe’s leading 5 leagues
‘ Fruit, vegetables and a bit of taekwondo’
How then has Zlatan defied father time to continue to stand out at an age when most of his peers are either long retired, coaching, or beinged in tv studios?
Diet plan is a huge part of it, as is an adjusted exercise program.
” You’re speaking about vegetables and fruit and just white meat,” Spanish football professional Guillem Balague told the BBC’s Euro Leagues podcast. “Pizzas are reward, no sugar. He does a bit of taekwondo too.”
Fellow journalist James Horncastle added: “He has actually spoken how he has had to alter his physique and end up being more physical.”
At the heart of it, though, is a cravings to stay at the top, to press himself to the lofty status he is so fond of declaring himself to be at.
” He likes to be on the phase,” stated Balague. “He doesn’t see what he is doing as a job, but something he is enthusiastic about and that drives you.”
” He loves the phase and because of his competitive nature he wants to see that in his team-mates,” continued Horncastle. “That is why this Milan team has actually grown.
” You have to take your hat off to Ibra. When he showed up in January he stated ‘if I had been here all year we would have won the league’. Everyone thought that was blowing however look where they are now.”
Ibrahimovic is now the fifth earliest centre-forward in Serie A history, although he has some way to go to beat the record, set by Italo Rossi, who stood for Pro Patria on 8 April 1951 aged 52 years, 11 months and 3 days.
In the contemporary period, though, he is surrounding Sergio Pellissier and Francesco Totti, who bet Chievo and Roma respectively at the age of 40 within the last 5 years.
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic||AC Milan||39||12||14|
‘ We are all gamers some better then others’
There is, obviously, another factor many eyes will be on Ibrahimovic during the Milan derby and that is his one major blot in his copybook for this season, which came the last time the Milan sides met.
Both he and Romelu Lukaku had scored for their respective sides as January’s Coppa Italia stood at 1-1 prior to the hour mark.
A clash in between the pair, in addition to some unsavoury comments – that included Ibrahimovic calling his ex-Manchester United team-mate a “little donkey” – made both players a reservation, with Ibrahimovic later sent for a second yellow card.
Christian Eriksen scored a winner for Inter in additional time.
On Sunday, the red and black side of Milan will be hoping it is only the boots of their star guy doing the talking.