After a long and painful 11 year wait, AC Milan finally returned to the top of Italy to lift the 2021/22 Serie A title.
Stefano Pioli’s young side have been a continually growing force, and after finishing runners up in 2020/21, pipped city rivals Inter to claim the club’s 19th Scudetto this season.
Crafting a youthful squad with a crucial blend of experience throughout, Milan have bounced back from a hellish decade of obscurity as a fallen giant, with the revival kickstarted when Pioli took the reins in 2019.
Initially accepting the job as interim boss, the Italian managed to impress and crucially brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the club at the beginning of 2020, whose freakish firing rate and unwavering leadership has proven invaluable once again.
Ibrahimovic made it his mission to win a trophy with this Milan side during his second spell with the club, having been a crucial part of the last Milan side that lifted the Scudetto in 2010/11, before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain.
It hasn’t been a straightforward campaign for Ibrahimovic though, who has finally proven he is human at the age of 40, with injuries taking their toll on his body.
The Swedish striker has been plagued by a knee problem all season that limited him to just 23 Serie A appearances this season, but still weighed in with an impressive eight goals and three assists. Crucially stepping up as the lone striker in his absence was Olivier Giroud, and together, the experienced duo have carried the pressure of expectation on their shoulders.
But while Ibrahimovic’s struggles with a knee injury were common knowledge to everybody watching Milan this season, the extent as to just how bad the injury was has been kept a rather unknown factor, until now.
It was confirmed that Ibrahimovic had undergone surgery on the left knee and would now be out for around seven to eight months, casting doubts over his future with his contract set to expire.
Speaking out following Milan’s title celebrations, Ibrahimovic has confirmed the surgery, explaining that he had been playing without an ACL in the knee for ‘the past six months’. That is unfathomable, even by his superhuman standards.
We’ve all come to be aware of, and even somewhat numb to Ibrahimovic’s shows of resilience. He recovered from what could’ve been a career-ending ACL injury at Manchester United to keep going until now, and has still been a regular goal scorer in a top European league despite his age.
This news, though, is truly shocking.
Adding detail to the story, Ibrahimovic revealed that he had only actually trained with the team ten times in the last six months due to his injury struggle and has been undergoing gruesome treatment to fight through without an ACL, playing with a consistently swollen knee.
‘Took more than 20 injections in six months,’ He wrote in an Instagram caption.
‘Emptied the knee once a week for six months’
‘Painkillers every day for six months’
Giving a harrowing account of the sacrifice he made to ensure his season was not ended, despite not having an ACL in his knee, Ibrahimovic later confirmed in the caption that he had ‘never suffered so much on and off the pitch’ throughout what would be a traumatising ordeal for anyone.
But, in true Zlatan fashion, the post was rounded off in a way only he could, displaying his elite mentality.
‘I made something impossible to something possible.
‘In my mind I had only one objective, to make my teammates and coach champions of Italy because I made them a promise.
‘Today I have a new ACL and another trophy.’
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Textbook Zlatan. Absolutely textbook. Combining an unrelenting winning mentality with his desire to lift another trophy, defy the odds even more and help his teammates to finally get over the line, Ibrahimovic poured everything into staying around the squad, essentially with one working leg.
He confirmed that he does have a new ACL, but did not share any updates on his future with the Rossoneri or on the pitch at all, with his focus now on a strenuous recovery period.
While this should – and absolutely would – be the end of the road for most footballers, we still wouldn’t be shocked if Ibrahimovic recovers and fancies another go of it all when that knee is back to 100%.