Zlatan Ibrahimović has stated ‘the team is growing a lot, the mentality is different and the young players take on more responsibility’ after scoring twice in the Derby della Madonnina.
Zlatan missed four games for Milan as he was positive for the Coronavirus. But he returned just in time for the Diavolo’s match against Inter at Stadio San Siro.
Ibra led Milan to victory in the first Derby della Madonnina of the season with two goals. In the 12′ minute he scored from the rebound after seeing his penalty getting saved by Samir Handanović while 3 minutes later he found the net again thanks to a Rafael Leão assist.
Romelu Lukaku scored in the 29′ minute and nearly equalized a few times later in the game but the Rossoneri held out well and managed to grab the three beautiful points and remain top of the table.
“What was in my derby this evening? There was a lot, it was an important match against Inter,” Ibrahimović told Sky Italia. “Milan hadn’t won the Derby for 4 years. I was locked away at home for two weeks. I was so hungry and today I proved it with these two goals. I’m disappointed with the missed penalty but the important thing is to have won. This adventure continues.
“The Scudetto? We are at the beginning. Since I arrived the team has been doing great things, especially after the lockdown. The team is growing a lot, the mentality is different and the young players take on more responsibility. Everyone is training great.
“If I feel responsibility? I feel a lot of responsibility, I’m the oldest on the team. It’s a situation that I like a lot, everyone follows me and everyone is hungry to win. If I’m amazed by myself? No… I know what my level is. After the knee injury I went to America to feel alive. At Manchester I told Mourinho that I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I went to America. Then Raiola to me to go back to Europe and they told me that Milan needed me the most and I came back.
“The COVID-19 quarantine? I only lost a bit of taste, I was taking swabs every three days. I would have played the Derby regardless, no one would have stopped me! The lion I posted on Instagram after the match? I’m like this lion, I wanted to put it up already in the last derby… I kept it aside [laughs].
“If I think I’ve done better in my 30s years than before? I feel more complete, I have more experience. When you are young you are still growing. Now I feel complete, if I had the physical condition of 10 years ago nobody would stop me, but even now they don’t stop me… My celebration after the second goal? There was one guy shouting from the audience, this celebration is only for him.
“My merits? In my opinion there’s a bit of everything. Physically I’m fine, I train a lot. I’m playing with great experience and I play with teammates who are willing to do many things. They are doing well, they listen, I put intensity on everyone – I don’t accept that they relax, not in training and not in the match. You have to train at 200%.
“Leão? He is very strong, he has an almost better body than mine. He has speed and technique. He just has to focus on football like he’s doing. He plays for Milan, there is not much patience here.
“Running for the title? We are thinking one game at a time, every game is like a final. When I arrived the objective was Europa and we got there. The objective for the club is to get to Europe again, my personal objectives are different but I keep them to myself [laughs]. Scudetto…? In my opinion there is a sure possibility, someone who believes can do everything. We believe in it, then in the end we’ll see how it goes. The road is still long.
“If I was targeting a particular defender? Yes, but I can’t tell you [laughs]. The coach prepared the game very well, he decided how we should attack. We did great things, we risked a bit but this is the Derby.”
Speaking to MilanTV, the 39-year-old Zlatan said: “The return from quarantine? I’m very hungry because they locked the wrong animal at home. Two weeks stuck at home, it’s not easy. Mentally it’s harder to be stuck indoors especially with the high tempo we’d had beforehand. Being stuck at home for two weeks, the tempo drops off completely and the body starts to tremble because it wants to work and to play, but because of COVID I was at home and all I could so was wait for it to pass so I could get back to the team to help them.
“The team? It is growing a lot, we play as a team a lot, and make a lot of sacrifices, one for all and all for one. We are doing well but the team must understand and knows that we haven’t finished anything yet, we have to push on now that they’ve had the feeling of winning matches. The mentality is the right one, to win you need to make these sacrifices and work hard. As I’ve said before my philosophy is, you’ll play the way you’ve trained. If you don’t give 200% in training, you won’t play at 200%. That’s why you have to do something every day.
“Leão? He is a great talent, he has a very bright future ahead of him if he makes the right decisions, it’s in his hands. We are here to help him, but he has to decide what he wants. He’s doing great things at the moment, he’s especially doing great things on the field, he’s open to improving and making sacrifices and today he played very well. In a match, there are moments when you struggle a bit, it’s that way for everyone, the important thing is to not let it get too much and to recover as soon as possible. But he is doing great things.
“Winning the derby away for the first time in 10 years? Now we don’t have to wait another 10 years… we were doing great, then I scored two goals. I’m a bit disappointed about the penalty, I shouldn’t miss. But I scored immediately after the penalty. So, three points today and we move on, I’m sorry for the fans – we have great support and we saw it before the match when they accompanied us to the stadium. It’s a great shame the fans couldn’t be in the stadium to celebrate with us. However, after the game, we celebrated where they would normally be.
“The performance in attack? [Laughs] We’re highly-focused in front of goal, when I arrived I said we had to kill it every time we were in front of goal, today we could have scored more but we won and we are more effective in front of goal, you can’t win if you don’t score, but we’re scoring for the moment.”