When Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to AC Milan in January 2020, it seemed that the Swedish striker was in the twilight of his career and that he could not rediscover the form he was in back in the early 2010s.
Although the then-38-year-old scored a respectable 10 goals in the second half of the 2019/20 Serie A campaign and has showed that he is a capable scorer when fit, injuries have significantly hampered his availability to Rossoneri coach Stefano Pioli.
Despite Ibrahimovic’s fitness concerns, Pioli can rely on another veteran who is not showing any signs of slowing down.
France international Olivier Giroud turns 36 on Friday, and throughout the 2022/23 campaign so far, he has been in excellent form for AC Milan and his country.
AC Milan and France cannot get enough of Giroud
Prior to France’s 2-0 defeat to Denmark in the Nations League – a result that was of little consequence to Les Bleus – Giroud had experienced a purple patch, finding the back of the net in four consecutive matches.
He had scored in AC Milan’s 2-1 victory against Sampdoria and their 2-1 defeat to Napoli in Serie A while also finding the back of the net in the 3-1 win against Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League.
He then brought his club form to the national team, scoring a goal and also supplying an assist for Kylian Mbappe in France’s 2-0 win against Austria, which ultimately was enough for Les Bleus to avoid relegation from Nations League A.
Giroud among the most-active veterans in Europe
Giroud has played for 591 minutes for AC Milan so far in 2022/23, and after taking his matches with France into account, that figure leaps up to 735 minutes.
Only four players over 35 years old in Europe’s top-five leagues have accumulated more minutes than the French striker this season: Brazilian defender Dante at Nice, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos at Paris Saint-Germain, and Luka Modric at Real Madrid.
It is incredible that Giroud is one of the oldest players at Milan and he has been able to lead the Rossoneri attack in most of their games so far. Younger forwards Divock Origi and Ante Rebic have spent time on the sidelines while the charismatic Ibrahimovic is unlikely to return for another four months.
AC Milan will face Empoli away on Saturday evening when Serie A action returns from the international break and it is unlikely that Pioli will risk starting Rebic just for the sake of giving Giroud a bit of time to recuperate.
As the fixtures come thick and fast, Pioli will need Origi and Rebic to eventually carry some of the load up front. Despite that, he has an incredible forward in Giroud, who has proven to be reliable for the Rossoneri and he has not shown any clear signs of ageing as yet.