Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte has welcomed Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to Serie A following his move to rival AC Milan and recounted attempting to take him to Chelsea. Ibrahimovic, 38, became a free agent after his contract with LA Galaxy expired at the end of the 2019 MLS season and a return to Italy always looked his most likely next step.
Napoli and Bologna were both linked with the Swede, but he ultimately opted for Milan, whom he previously spent two years with – the first on loan from Barcelona – until 2012. Ibrahimovic made his second comeback from the bench in Monday's clash with Sampdoria but was unable to inspire Stefano Pioli's men to victory, as it was held to a goalless draw at San Siro.
Conte expects the former Manchester United, Barca, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain striker to make a big impact at Milan, however, and lauded the personality of the man he tried to lure to Stamford Bridge.
“First of all, I want to say welcome back Ibra," Conte told reporters ahead of Saturday's Serie A clash with Atalanta.
"He is a great champion. I tried to get him when I was at Chelsea. I have a lot of respect for him, he has lots of personality after having a tough upbringing - he is a great player. I think he can give Milan a lot. His personality will help Milan, he will help the others grow. I think it is important for coaches to have players who lead the way, players who know what you want and lead the team. I think this is vital for a coach to have in a team. When a coach has those players then things are a lot easier."
Inter has been strongly linked with several players in the transfer window after such an impressive first half of the season. Christian Eriksen, Arturo Vidal and Ashley Young are all said to be key targets, though Conte was not forthcoming regarding potential new arrivals.
"I have said in the past that I will not talk about it," he said. "It is pointless asking me these questions. I don't want to be rude, but I will not talk about the transfer market. That is something for the club, not me."
"The January transfer window is always a bit peculiar. One must also be smart and understand that there can be many voices [publications]. The right weight must be given, but for us coaches it is a difficult month to handle certain situations. Sometimes untrue news comes out and you find yourself having to prepare a game while untrue rumours come out, but football is also this, you have to face this and be smart."
Latest on Sportstar
- WTC Final 2023: Virat Kohli batting vs Australia - key stats, records
- NBA Finals: 3 takeaways from Game 2 as Miami Heat levels series
- Australia’s Hazlewood eases fears over long-term fitness
- Benzema’s Real exit ‘surprise to everyone’, says Ancelotti
- French Open: Jabeur ‘not so far’ from her best after injury-plagued season