AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to action for the club for the first time in nine months today.
He came off the bench as they beat Atalanta 2-0 at the San Siro. Olivier Giroud started the game, but was replaced by Ibrahimovic for the last 15 minutes.
Ibrahimovic was on the pitch as Junior Messias doubled the lead to ensure three points for the Rossoneri.
He has been out of action since undergoing knee surgery last May and made history as the oldest Milan player in Serie A when he came on.
The 41-year-old had not been on the pitch since the Scudetto-winning 3-0 victory against Sassuolo. He underwent knee surgery only days after the title win.
“I missed the fans so much – I thank them for giving me strength, adrenaline and the motivation to continue,” Ibrahimovic told DAZN (via Football Italia). “Without the support of the fans, it is difficult.
“I feel good – if we look back, I haven’t felt this good for a year and two months. I feel able to do what I can do. Today, I felt free to do what I love, which is to play football.
“I said that I’d make San Siro jump – well today it was jumping.”
The former Barcelona forward delayed his surgery for months to help his club win their first Serie A title in 11 years. He underwent a gruelling recovery process to get to where he is now.
Ibrahimovic said being out during this period has not been easy, and he added that it was one of the toughest periods of his career.
Apart from the physical pain, he had to deal with the loss of long-time agent and friend Mino Raiola.
Despite Ibrahimovic’s age, he is adamant he is not just there to be a relic. Even when the Swede was out injured, he was constantly in the dressing room and on the sidelines, cheering and motivating the team.
Ibrahimovic said he wants people to forget what he did in the past and focus on the future.
No one will be more focused on what Ibrahimovic is doing than Pioli, who now has a viable rotation option for Giroud.
Divock Origi failed to make an impact when he got the chance. Pioli will be happy to have his outlandish striker back.
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