After retiring from football at the end of the 2022/23 campaign, many have wondered what the next move might be for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and talk of a return to AC Milan in an off-field role is increasing.
The Rossoneri have made a rough start to the Serie A campaign and look a step below Inter and Juventus, which has raised doubts over the future of coach Stefano Pioli at the Stadio San Siro. Pioli is in favour of a senior figure like Ibrahimovic being back at the club.
However, while attending the 2023 Sports Festival, the former Sweden international joked: “Maybe I’ll play again,” when asked about a potential return.
Why do AC Milan want Zlatan Ibrahimovic back?
When Paolo Maldini left his role as technical director during the summer of 2023, it presented the opportunity for an ex-player of similar stature to join the Rossoneri and owner Gerry Cardinale has been speaking of the potential benefits to working with Ibrahimovic.
“Zlatan could be extremely effective,” Cardinale told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Both as an advisor to me and as a leadership character for the whole team”.
“It depends on him, though, but we are in discussions and I really like [the idea]. I think there are a lot of advantages for us.”
Despite spending just two seasons with Milan during the height of his career, the striker played a fundamental role in their Scudetto success of 2010/11 and, when returning for the latter stage of his career, had a similar impact on a young and developing group of players who lifted the Serie A title in 2021/22. These successes strengthened a sense of belonging to the Rossoneri.
When could Zlatan Ibrahimovic rejoin AC Milan?
It was reported that initial discussions between Ibrahimovic and club representatives started when the Swede attended the 5-1 Derby della Madonnina defeat to Inter and the Champions League fixture with Premier League side Newcastle in September.
Cardinale arranged a private meeting with the former Paris Saint-Germain striker in a Milanese hotel, requiring privacy away from the media spotlight of two of the biggest fixtures in the Rossoneri calendar.
That was followed by at least one additional meeting that included CEO Giorgio Furlani to evaluate where Milan and Ibrahimovic can be of maximum benefit to each other, and both club and ex-player were content to let discussions move at a steady pace. However, with the on-the-pitch struggles of the team, there is increased urgency to bring him on board sooner rather than later and bring his influence and positivity back into the club.
At the Formula One race in Las Vegas, though, Ibrahimovic told Sky Sports: “Let’s see, let’s see… let’s talk, let’s talk,” when asked about negotiations, suggesting that there is still plenty of discussions still to be had between the parties.
As the story has developed, various rumours have emerged about what Ibrahimovic’s influence will be. Some say he will have a say on the transfer side of the operation, others say he will be a sporting advisor to Cardinale and provide more of a link between the team and the ownership.
The latest from Pioli came during his press conference ahead of the 1-0 win over Fiorentina, as he said: “No, I know he was in Las Vegas and I know he is talking to the club and the owners. If Cardinale saw something exceptional in him he wasn’t wrong. Ibra, if he were to return, will be an important resource.”