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dare to zlatan

Remembering Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s dramatic loan to Milan which led to their only league title of the last 13 years

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 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 every 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 Zlatan missing a penalty on debut for the Rossoneri.

Immediately fans 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.


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But in a way Milan’s success was down to his overall play rather than his goals.

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

Arguably Zlatan’s most impressive career achievement was the way he focused the mercurial talent of some of the game’s most frustrating figures.

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.

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

Buffon hugs Zlatan… greatness recognises greatness

Reuters
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Buffon hugs Zlatan… greatness recognises greatness

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 last 13 years and there’s no doubt Zlatan and Allegri were the chief architects.

During the season Zlatan 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 Zlatan’s goals.

A bicycle kick against Fiorentina was the highlight but there were several trademark power strikes that still linger comfortably of the fans that were there to witness them live.

Say what you want about him but you could never accuse him of being boring

Reuters
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Say what you want about him but you could never accuse him of being 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.

All hail Zlatan – king of the mavericks

AFP
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All hail Zlatan – king of the mavericks

The aftermath

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

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.

Still, Milan fans will always treasure the Swedish maverick for his 2010/11 exploits and who’s to say we won’t see him in the red and black stripes once more before he retires…


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