Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Milan a major boost ahead of the derby against Inter by returning to first-team training and sharing gems of wisdom with his Rossoneri teammates.
Sunday’s battle at the San Siro started too early for Ibrahimovic to make an impact on the pitch, but the 41-year-old striker is back in action, close to returning from knee surgery he underwent last May.
He was expected to be out for about eight months, and AC Milan gave the veteran all the time he needed.
Head coach Stefano Pioli believes having Ibrahimovic in the squad can only be a positive thing as last season’s Serie A champions struggle to recover from a slump in form.
Milan have lost three games in a row, including the Italian Super Cup final 3-0 to Inter, and have not won their last six matches.
Discussing the return of the charismatic Ibrahimovic, a former Inter player, Pioli said on Saturday: “He has always been a foundation for this team.
“On Friday, he resumed training with us, albeit on a small scale. Unfortunately, two games against Tottenham [in the Champions League] come too early and right now we don’t know when it will be 100 percent.
“I hope with all my heart that he comes back soon, especially for what he does. Few people would do what he does to recover from such a severe and confusing injury.
“Did he talk to his teammates? I think he knows how to hit the right chords.”
Hungry like never before #SempreMilan pic.twitter.com/wRKBNDlVkH
— Milan (@acmilan) February 3, 2023
Pioli’s side were 15 points behind leaders Napoli and started the weekend in fifth place, albeit only two points behind second-placed Inter, so the San Siro has something to fight for.
“This will be a great opportunity for us and we must do everything we can to take advantage of it,” Pioli said. Inter are coming into the match in great shape, but we have a great desire to start again.”
After losing the Super Cup on January 18, Milan lost 4-0 at Lazio and 5-2 at home to lowly Sassuolo, putting the top four in unexpected danger midway through the season.
Inter will want to suffer even more, but Pioli said: “We have not lost the spirit that has always distinguished us. We need to get back to showing this.”
Milan are determined to return to the top four and make a name for themselves in yet another Champions League campaign, but Pioli said: “This should not be taken for granted.
“We have to win a lot of games before the end to get as high as possible.”