Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed he considered retiring from football but decided he had to take on the challenge of returning AC Milan to their former glory.
The Italian giants haven’t won a Serie A title since 2011, during Ibrahimovic’s first spell at the club. Since then, they have finished as low as 10th in the Italian top flight, and last finished in the top four back in 2012-13.
Since the Swedish forward returned in January, however, their fortunes have improved dramatically. Milan are five points clear at the top of Serie A with the 39-year-old Ibrahimovic top of the scoring charts with 10 goals in just six appearances, and he has scored 22 in 30 games in all competitions since his move from LA Galaxy.
Ibrahimovic had plenty of doubters when he returned to Europe after two years laying waste to MLS, but he has answered his critics in typical style – by scoring goals and winning games.
“The first question I got when I came back to Milan was related to all the ex-players who had returned and had not come up to the standards from the first time they were here, they had failure,” Ibrahimovic told UEFA.
“What’s the difference in my case? I answered simply that I have never lost my passion for what I do. Every time I go out on the pitch, I feel like a small kid eating candy for the first time. I understand that the ball is my best friend and I want to be with my best friend for the rest of my life.
“Life is all about challenges. I felt I had done enough and I started thinking about whether to continue or not.
“For me, it was a big challenge to come back here to try to change the mentality, to try to change the situation and to make the players understand what Milan was about. The Milan I know, the Milan that the whole world knows.
Ibrahimovic says he puts pressure on his team-mates to give their best in every game.
“When I play, I bring my character, my personality and obviously my quality onto the pitch. I put a lot of pressure on my team-mates, I try to get the most out of each of them.
“Some take it in a good way, others a little less, some cannot handle it. They find it very hard in the sense that you have to perform when we decide that you perform, and I decided that we have to perform every day. The way you train is the way you play.
“Whether you are young or old I put the same pressure on you because if you are here there is a reason; you are here because you are good enough.
“But off the pitch, if you are young obviously I speak to you differently, I treat you differently, the behaviour is not the same compared to the older ones. But on the field, they are all the same for me.
“I’m never satisfied, I always want more and maybe that’s why I’m here today and I’m able to perform and do what I’m doing.
“I don’t see many players, in the past and in the present, able to perform like I am doing. I consider myself like Benjamin Button, I’m getting younger every day. I need to feel alive, to feel that I am giving something back.”