Ibrahimovic returning to Serie A not a foregone conclusion, says Raiola

By Sports Desk December 08, 2019

Rumoured Milan, Napoli and Bologna target Zlatan Ibrahimovic would "increase the appeal" of Serie A, according to Mino Raiola, though his agent insisted a return to Italy is not a foregone conclusion.

Ibrahimovic is a free agent after leaving LA Galaxy following two seasons in MLS, and the former Juventus, Inter and Milan striker hinted he was heading back to Serie A when he said "see you soon in Italy" earlier this week.

However, Ibrahimovic's agent stressed his client could still join a club in another country

"It's not been said that he will necessarily return to Italy," Raiola told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Which of the three interested clubs will he choose? Who knows, we're all free men.

"Could he retire? I'm not going to exclude anything but it is very unlikely. Ibra is still very well."

I came, I saw, I conquered. Thank you @lagalaxy for making me feel alive again. To the Galaxy fans - you wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome. The story continues...Now go back to watch baseball pic.twitter.com/kkL6B6dJBr

— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 13, 2019

The 38-year-old Swede certainly helped enhance MLS during his two years Stateside, and Raiola feels he would have a similar impact in Italy, should that be his chosen destination.

"Certainly if he returned, the appeal of Serie A would increase, both technically and on television," Raiola added.

"How many countries would turn on the TV every weekend?"

Ibrahimovic spent two seasons with Juventus, three campaigns with Inter and two years with Milan, scoring a combined 122 goals across 219 appearances.

He was part of title-winning teams with all three clubs, though Juventus' two championships in that time were later revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal.

Related items

  • Ronaldo, Dybala, Immobile trident leads Opta's Serie A 'Team of the Season' Ronaldo, Dybala, Immobile trident leads Opta's Serie A 'Team of the Season'

    There was a predictable champion at the end of the 2019-20 Serie A campaign as Juventus clinched a ninth successive Scudetto, and their success is reflected in Opta's Team of the Season. 

    Although Juve finished 2019-20 just a point ahead of second-placed Inter, they had wrapped up the title with two games to go – beating Sampdoria 2-0 on July 26.

    Cristiano Ronaldo was unsurprisingly key, finishing as his team's top scorer, but for much of the season there were a few sides that looked like they might push Juve all the way.

    Inter, Atalanta and Lazio all had their moments where they were able to dream and they each had individuals who impressed.

    Following the conclusion on the campaign on Sunday, we teamed up with Opta to outline the Serie A Team of the Season.

    OPTA'S SERIE A TEAM OF THE SEASON

    GK: Wojciech Szczesny, Juventus

    Poland international Szczesny has come a long way since struggling in the latter part of his Arsenal career. He was once again a dependable option between the posts, remaining first choice despite the return of Gianluigi Buffon. He ended the season with a 74.4 per cent save success rate, the best of the Serie A goalkeepers to have played 20 or more times.

    RB: Juan Cuadrado, Juventus

    Hardly the most convincing of defenders, granted, but Cuadrado boasts the versatility to play in a few roles down the right flank and he became an important figure for Maurizio Sarri – his 28 Serie A starts is just one fewer than he managed in the previous two seasons combined. The Colombian was certainly influential, too, as he was involved in more open-play sequences that ended with a shot made by someone else (132) than any other player this term. He also chipped in with two goals and five assists.

    CB: Stefan de Vrij, Inter

    No team conceded fewer goals in Serie A this season than an Inter side that Antonio Conte ensured was well-drilled. Netherlands centre-back De Vrij played a major role in that as he featured 34 times – though his efforts were not notable just for his defensive effectiveness. The former Feyenoord man scored three goals and also set up another three, making him the most productive centre-back in the league in this regard.

    CB: Francesco Acerbi, Lazio

    After Inter, the next-best defensive unit in Serie A was Lazio, who let in 42 (six more than Conte's men). Acerbi missed just two games all season and his form at the start of the season also saw him make three starts for Italy. The 32-year-old has proven himself to be one of Serie A's best stoppers, as evidenced by the fact he was dribbled past just six times this term. No other outfield player with more than 35 appearances did better than that.

    LB: Theo Hernandez, Milan

    Former France youth international Hernandez has rediscovered the early promise he showed during a fine loan spell at Deportivo Alaves in 2016-17. While question marks remain over his defensive abilities, the Atletico Madrid youth product has excited with his attacking tendencies in 2019-20. No defender completed more dribbles (57) than him, while he also had a hand in nine goals (six goals, three assists).

    CM: Luis Alberto, Lazio

    Since leaving Liverpool for Rome in 2016, Luis Alberto has arguably developed into one of the world's best creative midfielders. The Spain international sees passes few others can and he has put that to particularly good use in 2019-20, with his 106 chances created being a Serie A high. Similarly, his 15 assists was second only to Alejandro Gomez (16), as he helped Simone Inzaghi's men mount a title challenge. Often linked with a return home to Sevilla, Lazio will surely be doing everything they can to keep Luis Alberto at Stadio Olimpico.

    CM: Fabian Ruiz, Napoli

    The other half of a Seville-centric midfield, Real Betis product Fabian probably hasn't impressed quite as much as he did in 2018-19, but he has nevertheless continued to show plenty of promise. Still only 24, Fabian attempted the most passes (2,331) of any player in the league this season, while he had a hand in nine goals, the same amount as in the previous campaign.

    AM: Alejandro Gomez, Atalanta

    Like a fine wine, 'Papu' Gomez just seems to get better with age. Now 32, the Argentinian has enjoyed a fantastic season for the often-exhilarating Atalanta. He scored seven goals for a second successive season, but his haul of 16 assists is five more than 2018-19. That figure is the highest since Opta records began in 2004-05.

    FWD: Paulo Dybala, Juventus

    The Sarri-Juventus combination continues to puzzle many, but if there's one thing he has got right, it's helping Dybala get back to something resembling his best. He had been strongly linked with a move away last year, but Dybala was involved in 17 Serie A goals this term (11 goals, six assists) and managed to coexist with Ronaldo more effectively. Of his 11 strikes, eight (73 per cent) were the opening goals of matches, the biggest quantity among players with 10 or more.

    FWD: Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

    Considering there being murmurs of discontent between himself and Sarri, and suggestions the coach hasn't been able to get the best out of the Portugal great, Ronaldo's had a pretty effective year. With 31 league goals, it's been his best goal-scoring campaign domestically since getting 35 with Real Madrid in 2015-16, while his goals have secured 24 points, more than any other player.

    FWD: Ciro Immobile, Lazio

    What a season Immobile has had. With 36 league goals, the Italy international equalled Gonzalo Higuain's record for a single campaign, while that haul also won him the coveted European Golden Shoe. On top of that, his record of nine assists was bettered by only Gomez, Luis Alberto and Domenico Berardi. If he can keep it up, Lazio will surely fancy themselves of challenging Juve again next term.

  • Karim Benzema from strike ace to...strike ace? Real Madrid star fancies a crack at MMA Karim Benzema from strike ace to...strike ace? Real Madrid star fancies a crack at MMA

    Real Madrid star Karim Benzema had a simple answer when asked if he fancies a crack at mixed martial arts after his football career comes to an end: "No problem for me, I'm up for it!"

    Benzema, 32, enjoyed a brilliant campaign for Madrid, scoring 21 goals and providing eight assists as Los Blancos beat Barcelona to the LaLiga title.

    Such form suggests Benzema still has plenty of legs left in football yet, even though he may be approaching the twilight years of his career.

    But there are other challenges that appeal to the French striker, including it seems having a go at the fight game.

    Benzema took questions from several friends for a YouTube video, one of which came from French kickboxer Fouad Ezbiri, who he has trained with in the past.

    Ezbiri asked if Benzema - a fan of fight sports - ever had plans to step in the ring at least once.

    "Well Fouad my broski, in any case I hope you're doing good, and it's true that I love fighting sports," Benzema said. 

    "I love training, as you say we already trained, after the soccer why not train with you for six months and if you think I can be ready for a fight, no problem for me, I'm up for it!"

    Benzema also responded to a separate question about how much longer he feels he has left in football.

    "I'm working a lot. I pay attention to everything I do, I take care of myself and I'm trying to get the best out of me as possible," Benzema added. 

    "I know this is not the beginning of my career but in any case, for me, age does not mean anything and yeah we're going to do everything."

    Benzema also revealed three major sporting influences of his, saying: "It depends there are many people who have inspired me but we'll take soccer for example. It's Ronaldo, the Brazilian, so he's the one who made me love football, simply. It's thanks to what he did but everyone knows it. 

    "Then athletic, although I'm not a big fan of basketball, but I would say Michael Jordan for what he did, what he has been with the Chicago Bulls. And then another athlete I would say Mike Tyson, there you go Mike Tyson, because it's the power."

    Real Madrid team-mate James Rodriguez pondered whether Benzema prefers scoring or assisting a team-mate.

    "I'll answer you sincerely. Making assists or scoring goals are two different things but not that different and I like to do both," he said. 

    "To choose, I choose to score. On the other hand if my partner is good and sure to score I'll pass him the ball and offer him the goal. So, I choose both my brother."

  • Rose not giving up on Spurs return Rose not giving up on Spurs return

    Danny Rose would love the opportunity to play in front of Tottenham's fans one more time and would happily see out the remainder of his contract in north London.

    England left-back Rose spent the second half of the 2019-20 Premier League season on loan at Newcastle United after falling out of favour when Jose Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino as head coach last November.

    The 30-year-old told BBC Radio 5 Live he felt he "wasn't given as much of a chance as everybody else in the backline" by Mourinho.

    Rose is contracted to Spurs until June 2021 and he told The Second Captains podcast he has not entirely given up hope of resurrecting his career at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

    "I'm very happy to stay at Tottenham and see my last 10, 11 months out. I'd love to," he said.

    "There's nothing more I want than to play one more time in front of the fans.

    "My last game for Spurs was a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool and at the time I didn't know that could be my last game for Spurs.

    "I want nothing more than to play in front of the Tottenham fans one more time and just to cherish all the moments I've had over the years with them."

    Rose was extensively linked to Manchester United, among other clubs, around the time he questioned Tottenham's ambition during a 2017 interview with The Sun.

    He continued to play a key role under Pochettino and was part of the England squad that reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, and is grateful to Spurs fans for standing by him.

    "They've always been good to me," Rose said. "I've possibly given them reasons over the past not to be so good to me, but they know that when it was game time I gave everything for them.

    "I'll continue to do that for as long as I'm contracted to Tottenham. I'll say it again - I would love nothing more than to play one last time for Tottenham and just be able to say goodbye to them and thank them for everything they've done for me, as a person and as a player.

    "Ultimately, as good as I was, I was because of the love that they gave me. I'm very relaxed, I'll just have to wait and see."

    Rose scored on his Premier League debut against Arsenal in 2010 – setting up a 2-1 derby victory – and has made 210 appearances for Tottenham in all competitions.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.