STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s decision to return to AC Milan and Italy for what may prove to be the final chapter of his storied career will provide a fascinating twist in the tale of a Serie A season that has been anything but rewarding for the “Rossoneri” so far.
The second-most successful club in Italy behind Juventus in terms of league titles, Milan are parked in an undignified 10th spot in the standings as the announcement of the Swedish goal-scorer’s return was made on Friday evening.
Fans will be looking forward to getting reacquainted with a talismanic striker that scored 42 goals in 61 games and winning a league title and an Italian Super Cup before leaving in 2012 to join Paris St Germain. However, he is now seven years older with a lot more miles on the clock.
That said, his 31 goals in 31 games last season with LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer would suggest that his power and precision are still there, even if his pace is not.
It could also be argued that playing with players earning far, far less than him in the U.S. has taught the 38-year-old to both manage his extremely high expectations and to take more responsibility for his team’s fortunes.
Few believed that Ibrahimovic’s period in the MLS - a growing league, but still a relative backwater in global terms - would be the final chapter in a career that has featured goals, glory and no little controversy.
His ability to rile everyone from rival fans to Pep Guardiola, his coach at Barcelona, is legendary, and a statue of him in his home town of Malmo has been defaced recently after he acquired an ownership stake in Stockholm rivals Hammmarby.
The contract with Milan runs to the end of the current season with an option for another year, and though a lucrative move to China or the Middle East cannot be ruled out, this may be the last time he signs for a big club in a top league.
With a thin squad that is 21 points behind leaders and bitter city rivals Inter Milan, a Hollywood ending to Milan’s season is highly unlikely. However, the drama of Ibrahimovic’s return will make Serie A required watching as his career enters its final act.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Christian Radnedge