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Remembering Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s loan to Milan that earned them their only title of the decade

Zlatan's goals and presence inspired a team of misfits to a historic title win... but there was plenty of controversy along the way

There’s never a dull moment when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is around.

Back in 2010/11 the enigmatic Swede was loaned to Milan (with an option to make the deal permanent) after falling out with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

What followed was one of the most remarkable seasons in recent memory.

And of course Zlatan was at the heart of every highlight and controversy…

A legend arrives…

Reuters
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A legend arrives…

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Things got off to an underwhelming start.

Milan lost 2-0 to Cesena in their second game of the season with Ibrahimovic missing a penalty on debut for the Rossoneri.

Fans immediately questioned whether their squad was in the right shape for the season ahead.

Massimiliano Allegri had a reliable core in the form of Christian Abbiati, Thiago Silva, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf.

But the last three names on that list were all well past 30 in 2010/11.

It was also Andrea Pirlo’s last season before Milan let him leave on a free (not the wisest move).

However, the addition of Zlatan and his larger-than-life aura breathed new life into the old guard with incredible results…

Fans took to him quickly despite his history with rivals Inter

AP:Associated Press
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Fans took to him quickly despite his history with rivals Inter

A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH

From mid-September until late January, Zlatan scored 13 goals in 19 league games to propel Milan to the top of the table.

He would end the season as Milan’s top scorer with 21 goals in all competitions.

However, Milan’s success was also down to Ibra’s overall play.

After tactical friction at Barca, he was once again the central focal point and he exhibited outstanding hold-up play and rare selflessness to get the most out of the players around him.

Speaking of which…

“I remember that guy!”

AFP
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“I remember that guy!”

THE MAVERICKS

The way Ibrahimovic focused the mercurial talent of some of the game’s most frustrating figures was crucial to Milan’s campaign.

His attacking team-mates in 2010/11 included Robinho, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato.

Four gifted players who have all ultimately fallen short of what was expected of them.

But in 2010/11, Zlatan inspired them to a level of consistency many fans and managers thought impossible.

Boateng played out of his skin in midfield while Pato and Robinho scored 14 league goals each, the latter’s best haul in European football.

The Swede’s presence united a group of misfits and transformed them into Italy’s most potent attacking unit.

Real recognises real

Reuters
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Real recognises real

A MILANESE LEGACY

A 0-0 draw to Roma on the 7th May meant Milan won their first Scudetto since 2003/04.

This triumph remains the club’s only league title of the decade and there’s no doubt Zlatan, along with Allegri, was the chief architect.

During the season, he had been compared to Milan legend Marco van Basten, a comparison that was legitimised when the Dutchman echoed such opinions himself.

The 2010/11 season will also be remembered for the nature of his goals.

A bicycle kick against Fiorentina was the highlight but there were several trademark power strikes that still linger in the memories of the fans that witnessed them live.

never boring

Reuters
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never boring

WHY IT NEARLY ALL WENT WRONG

Looking back at Zlatan’s disciplinary record for that season, you would have thought it ended in disaster.

He fought with team-mate Oguchi Onyewu in training, allegedly two-footing and headbutting the USA international after a disagreement during a practice game.

Zlatan picked up ten yellow cards over the course of the season and was sent off twice, once for punching Bari defender Marco Rossi in the stomach off-the-ball.

All these cards meant he was suspended for some key games but luckily his absence didn’t cost Milan too dearly.

You may also remember that he celebrated Milan’s title win by kicking Antonio Cassano in the head while the the Italian was giving a post-match interview.

King of the mavericks

AFP
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King of the mavericks

THE AFTERMATH

Milan opted to make the switch a permanent one (obviously) and Ibrahimovic did all he could to defend the title the following season.

He scored 28 goals in 32 games but they finished second behind Juventus with the Old Lady going the whole season undefeated.

Zlatan joined PSG in the summer and the rest is history.

Now he’s set to return to Milan after ‘conquering America’ (his words)… he couldn’t do it again, could he?


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