Zlatan Ibrahimovic said Milan believe in their Serie A title credentials after extending their stellar start to the season by beating Roma, but the evergreen star admitted there is a long way to go.

Milan defeated Roma 2-1 at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, with Ibrahimovic opening the scoring with a 25th-minute free-kick, marking the 400th league goal of his career – 150 of those coming in Serie A.

The 40-year-old Swede earned his side a penalty for their second goal, with Franck Kessie converting from the spot in the 57th minute, before Stephan El Shaarawy's late consolation.

The win means Milan have 31 points from 11 Serie A games, sitting behind leaders Napoli only on goal difference.

Milan became the fourth team in Serie A history to win 10 of the first 11 games of the season, after Roma, Juventus (twice) and Napoli (twice). 

"We'll try. We believe in this, we've done well so far, but it's a long season and we must continue to be consistent in our work," Ibrahimovic told DAZN after the game about their title aspirations.

"We believe, but it's early days. Take it one game at a time."

The Rossoneri last lifted the Scudetto in 2010-11, enduring several lean years before last season's runners-up finish.

Milan, who face rivals and champions Inter next, have only dropped points in the league this season away to Juventus, while Roma had been unbeaten at home prior to Sunday's win.

"It was a great performance, we played with a lot of confidence and our style," Ibrahimovic said after scoring his fourth direct free-kick in Serie A and first since January 2012.

"We knew it wasn't easy, Roma were unbeaten at home this season, but we played really well and must continue with this belief and tempo."

The former Sweden international has now scored 11 goals against Roma in Serie A, making them his favourite opponent in the competition.

Ibrahimovic was jeered by the home fans throughout the contest in the Italian capital, but said it provided added motivation for him.

"I need the jeers, the more they jeer, the more alive I feel. Adrenaline brings so much," he said as Milan became the third team in Serie A history to win 15 away games in a calendar year, following Napoli in 2017 (18) and Juventus in 2018 (15).

"We want to win, especially when playing such a big game and a man down. We showed we've all got character and can suffer under pressure too. The lads put in a great performance."

Roma boss Jose Mourinho did not want to say much following the Giallorossi's 2-1 defeat to Milan at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, fearing that if he did he "won't be on the touchline next week."

The loss was Mourinho's first at home in Serie A in his career, having been unbeaten for 43 home games during his time at Inter and Roma.

"Compliments to Milan," he said to DAZN immediately after the game. "I don't want to say anything else, because otherwise I won't be on the touchline next week.

"I am angry at the lack of respect shown to the Roma fans. We did not play well, but we left everything on the pitch. We have that respect, others do not, and that angers me.

"That is all."

The former Chelsea and Manchester United manager then held an equally short press conference, adding: "I made an effort and did not wait for the referee."

 

1 - Mourinho has lost his first Serie A home game, after 43 matches in a row without losing: the longest unbeaten home run for a coach since 1994/95 in the competition. Stop. #RomaMilan

— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) October 31, 2021

 

Mourinho appeared to be unhappy with the performance of referee Fabio Maresca, who awarded Milan a second half penalty after he deemed Roger Ibanez to have fouled Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

On the advice of the video assistant referee (VAR), Maresca reviewed the footage at pitchside, but after several views, maintained his original decision and pointed to the spot.

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie scored the penalty to add to Ibrahimovic's first half free kick, and it ultimately proved to be the winning goal.

Maresca also sent off Milan's Theo Hernandez in the second half for a second bookable offence but Mourinho's men were unable to get back into the game, despite Stephan El Shaarawy's late strike.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli praised the courage of with his team, who moved back level on points with Napoli at the top of the Serie A table after the win.

"We played with character, with our ideas and approach," Pioli told DAZN.

"Roma are a quality side, we did very well with 11 against 11, kept trying to score more goals and that is the character we need in such important games.

"We're going through a positive period of form, so we’ve got to ride this wave, be courageous and confident, so I am very happy."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an emphatic free-kick for his 400th career league goal as Milan beat Jose Mourinho's Roma 2-1 to keep pace with Napoli at the top of Serie A.

It means Mourinho has lost a home game in Italy for the first time, while the visiting Rossoneri made it seven league wins in a row.

Roma made a bright start but Stefano Pioli's Milan soon took a stranglehold on the game, with Ibrahimovic at the centre of most of their good work and opening the scoring after 25 minutes.

Milan were too strong for their hosts, and a second-half penalty from Franck Kessie secured the points for the visitors, despite them going down to 10 men when Theo Hernandez was sent off. A late reply from Stephan El Shaarawy mattered for very little.

 

Ibrahimovic gave the visitors the lead when he fired a free-kick low and hard past Rui Patricio.

Milan thought they had doubled their advantage on two separate occasions as Rafael Leao and Ibrahimovic had goals ruled out for offside.

The away side were then awarded a penalty early in the second half after Roger Ibanez brought down Ibrahimovic, which Kessie duly dispatched.

Milan lost Hernandez to a red card in the 66th minute after his second booking of the contest. The Giallorossi then pulled a goal back in stoppage time when substitute El Shaarawy fired past Ciprian Tatarusanu.

But Milan, who have won more Serie A matches against Roma than against any other side (77), held on to secure the win and a 10th victory from their opening 11 games.


What does it mean? Milan keep pace with Napoli at Serie A summit

Milan remain neck and neck with fellow pacesetters Napoli after Luciano Spalletti’s men won 1-0 at Salernitana earlier on Sunday.

Milan and Napoli have now won 10 of their 11 matches in Serie A this season – only four sides had previously managed that feat in the history of the competition: Juventus in 2005-06, Roma in 2013-14, Napoli in 2017-18 and Juventus in 2018-19.

When in Rome, do as Ibra does

Ibrahimovic’s fierce free-kick brought up another landmark for the veteran Swede. His first league goal was netted on 30 October 1999, when 15 per cent of the players with at least one match in Serie A this season had not yet been born.

The former Manchester United attacker has also now scored 11 goals against Roma in Serie A, more than he has against anyone else in top-flight football.

Tough night for Tammy

Tammy Abraham was ready to write the headlines as he came up against his childhood friend and former Chelsea team-mate Fikayo Tomori, but it was the Milan centre-back who came out on top in Rome.

Abraham struggled to impose himself on the game during his 63 minutes on the pitch, managing only 18 touches, not winning any of his four duels and having just one shot on goal.

What's next?

Roma host Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League on Thursday, looking for revenge after their 6-1 thrashing in the reverse fixture. Milan host Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday, looking for the first points of their European campaign.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic reached another goalscoring milestone on Sunday by netting his 400th career league goal in Milan's Serie A meeting with Roma.

The 40-year-old drilled a free-kick under the Roma wall and past a well-beaten Rui Patricio to give Milan a first-half lead at the Stadio Olimpico.

That was also another landmark strike for Ibrahimovic, bringing up 150 goals in Serie A for Juventus, Inter and Milan, where he is in his second spell.

Incredibly, 15 per cent of the players with at least one match in Serie A this season were not even born when Ibrahimovic scored the first of his league goals for Malmo in the Swedish top flight in October 1999.

 

Ibrahimovic has also previously played for Ajax, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and LA Galaxy, with his most prolific spell coming in Ligue 1 with PSG as he netted 113 times in 122 appearances.

The Sweden international has now scored 11 goals against Roma in Serie A, making them his favourite opponent in the competition. 

Each of Ibrahimovic's eight previous goals against Roma prior to Sunday had been in games in which he scored a brace, but that run came to an end as he was substituted before the hour mark in this latest contest.

Kylian Mbappe must learn to "walk on fire" if he wants to achieve his full potential, according to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

France striker Mbappe is in his fifth year at Paris Saint-Germain and the 22-year-old has been the team's Ligue 1 top scorer in the past three campaigns.

Mbappe continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid, which could happen at the end of this season, given he will become a free agent if he refuses a new PSG contract.

Former PSG frontman Ibrahimovic, who famously scored 38 league goals in the 2015-16 season, feels there is more to come from Mbappe if he introduces a greater edge and stretches himself to the limit.

Ibrahimovic has been a master of tacking his talent to an exuberant, at times brash, character, and it has made him an opponent that others fear, not merely for his goal threat but his force of personality.

He told Telefoot: "I love Mbappe, but what he does is not yet enough. He is too comfortable, in his zone. He needs to walk on fire and then he will be even better.

"He needs to sense the taste of blood. You have to be surrounded by those who tell you you're not good enough and you can progress, not by those who say you're the best."

Mbappe has become pivotal to PSG since arriving, initially on loan, in 2017 from Monaco.

 

Last season there was a marked difference in PSG's fortunes when he was not in the team. With Mbappe starting, as he did in 27 Ligue 1 games, PSG averaged 2.3 points per game, winning 74 per cent of those fixtures, but in the 11 matches when he was absent from the XI those numbers dipped to 1.8 points per game and a 54.5 per cent win rate.

Given PSG were pipped to the title by one point, as Lille were crowned French champions, his importance becomes obvious.

Including appearances off the bench, he featured in 31 Ligue 1 games and scored 27 goals, his second-best return for the Parisians, beaten only by his remarkable 33-goal effort in the 2018-19 season.

Mbappe will have his work cut out to match Ibrahimovic's 2015-16 strike rate of one goal every 67.2 minutes, although he has had three campaigns so far where he has dipped under the goal-every-90-minutes bar.

"Mbappe is in the top category of those that I like," said Ibrahimovic. "There are other players who have been at the top for a long time. Among young people, there is Mbappe, [Erling] Haaland. And who else? There is Ibrahimovic, no need for anyone else."

Milan moved to the Serie A summit as Ismael Bennacer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck late to hand them a pulsating 4-2 win over nine-man Bologna.

Rafael Leao and Davide Calabria scored either side of Adama Soumaoro's dismissal to give the Rossoneri a healthy advantage at the interval.

That was wiped out in the space of seven minutes at the start of the second period, however, with an Ibrahimovic own goal and a Musa Barrow strike restoring parity at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

Bologna had a second man sent off before the hour mark, Roberto Soriano given a straight red card for a late challenge, and Stefano Pioli's Milan landed a memorable three points thanks to fine late strikes from Bennacer and Ibrahimovic.

Leao put Milan ahead in the 16th minute with a deflected strike, before Soumaoro was shown a red card for bringing down a clean-through Rade Krunic just outside the area four minutes later.

Milan took advantage of their numerical superiority in the 35th minute, Calabria lashing home a second from 15 yards.

The hosts stormed back at the start of the second period, though, with Ibrahimovic – making his first start since May 9 – heading into his own net four minutes after the interval to give Sinisa Mihajlovic's side hope.

Barrow then remarkably drew Bologna level in the 52nd minute, slotting past Ciprian Tatarusanu after being played in by Soriano.

Rossoblu captain Soriano was then given his marching orders after a VAR review six minutes later for an ugly challenge on Fode Ballo-Toure.

The hosts held firm until the 84th minute when Bennacer powered into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards, while Ibrahimovic added gloss to the scoreline with a whipped finish from the same distance six minutes later.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could make his first start since May when Milan look to bounce back from more Champions League disappointment against Bologna.

Milan suffered their third successive defeat in the Champions League in midweek as they were beaten 1-0 by Porto.

They sit bottom of Group B, but results are going much better for Stefano Pioli's men in Serie A.

The Rossoneri are unbeaten domestically and sit second, two points behind leaders Napoli.

Ibrahimovic has played in only three games in all competitions and has not started since Milan's win over Juventus on May 9.

However, the 40-year-old could be in line to end that wait on Saturday, against a Bologna team sitting eighth in Serie A.

"Ibrahimovic needs to train and play," said Pioli ahead of the trip to Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

"He's been training with the group for a week, but I still have to decide who will start between him and [Olivier] Giroud.

"I will decide the line-up tomorrow [Saturday] morning. Right now, we can't play with two strikers. When they feel well, they could play together."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined the Champions League's 40-plus club on a miserable night for Milan, as the Swede insisted: "We have to do better."

A 1-0 defeat in Porto means the Serie A giants have yet to pick up a point through three rounds of Group B games.

They have never begun a group-stage campaign so poorly, points-wise, and it will now take a remarkable effort to claw themselves back into last-16 contention.

Luis Diaz's second-half strike gave Porto the points at the Estadio do Dragao, making the November 3 re-match at San Siro in two weeks' time particularly huge for Milan.

This is the Rossoneri's first season back in the elite UEFA club competition since the 2013-14 campaign, and it has been a tough examination to date.

Ibrahimovic promised Milan would fight for as long as they remain mathematically capable of making progress, claiming he remained "confident" of a turnaround, albeit realistic about their shortcomings on Tuesday.

"Today was our worst match in the Champions League," said Ibrahimovic. "Unfortunately we are still on zero points after three games.

"We must remember that this team is back in the Champions League after so many years and games like this will give experience to the whole group."

Speaking to Mediaset Canale 5, he added: "Players were missing, but this is part of football. I just got back and I'm happy to play."

Injuries and COVID-19 cases have left Milan depleted, but Ibrahimovic said: "I don't want to find excuses. In the next match we have to do better. There are three games left and, as long as there is a chance, we will try. I am confident."

The Swedish striker was used as a substitute, coming on just before the hour mark to become the first outfield player aged 40 or over to appear in the Champions League since Ryan Giggs for Manchester United in April 2014.

Ibrahimovic also became just the second 40-year-old to appear for Milan in the competition, after former defensive stalwart Alessandro Costacurta.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli accepted his side were second best on the night in Portugal, praising Porto's efforts.

The Italian outfit have lost their last five games in the Champions League, but two of those came against Atletico Madrid at the last-16 stage eight seasons ago.

Pioli said of Porto: "They did better in terms of clarity, technique and how they were on the pitch. We didn't start well, we had to manage the ball better.

"There were situations where we could have created some more danger, but we didn't succeed in doing so. The performance wasn't the best. At this level, if you don't play with clarity it becomes difficult. They did better than us."

Olivier Giroud hailed Zlatan Ibrahimovic as an inspiration to younger players in Serie A, while expressing his excitement to play with the Sweden forward at Milan.

Giroud joined Milan in a reported €2million (£1.7m) deal from Chelsea in July and opened his account with a double against Cagliari at the end of August.

With that brace, the France international became the first player to score multiple times in his first home league match for the Rossoneri since Mario Balotelli in February 2013.

However, after testing positive for COVID-19 the following month, the 34-year-old striker has amassed just 224 top-flight minutes for Stefano Pioli's side, with Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic leading the line so far.

Ibrahimovic is another of Milan's options and has scored once this term, despite playing just 30 minutes in Serie A as his new campaign has been hampered by injuries to this point.

And Giroud is keen to link up with the former Barcelona and Manchester United forward as he praised the impact his team-mate can have on future generations of footballers.

"I played against Zlatan a few times," Giroud said to Serie A's YouTube channel. "He still plays at 40 and that means he's an exceptional professional.

"He takes care of himself and his body, and I also try to do so to enjoy football as long as my body will allow it.

"I think he's a great example for the youngsters and he is one of the best strikers in Serie A. I can't wait to play alongside him and enjoy him in training.

"I think we will have fun and we want to win something with Milan. With Zlatan, it will be easier."

 

Before his recent injury, Ibrahimovic was one of Pioli's key players as he registered 25 goals in 37 Serie A games between his second debut for the club on January 6, 2020 and the end of last term.

That tally is bettered by just five players across that period — Duvan Zapata (27), Luis Muriel (30), Romelu Lukaku (35), Ciro Immobile (37) and Cristiano Ronaldo (50).

Having brought in the likes of Mike Maignan and Fikayo Tomori alongside Ibrahimovic's experience, Giroud is hoping Milan can compete for the top spot after setting the early pace with Napoli and neighbours Inter.

"I’m very proud to play for Milan and in Serie A," he continued.

"We play football for these emotions and pass them on to the fans, and that's why I can't wait to give everything for the team and for the Milan supporters.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on us, but we want to fight for the top spot in the standings."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will remain sidelined for Milan's trip to Atalanta on Sunday, but head coach Stefano Pioli says the ageless striker "could play forever".

The Sweden international has featured only once for Milan since undergoing knee surgery in June and was on the scoresheet in that 2-0 win over Lazio on September 12.

Either side of a two-year spell in MLS with LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic has not played more than 19 games in a single league campaign in European football since 2016-17 in his first of two seasons with Manchester United.

Prior to his recent injury lay-off, though, he was a key player under Pioli as he registered 25 goals in 37 Serie A games between his second debut for the club on January 6, 2020 and the end of last season.

That is a tally bettered by just five players across that period – Duvan Zapata (27), Luis Muriel (30), Romelu Lukaku (35), Ciro Immobile (37) and Cristiano Ronaldo (50).

Of those, only Muriel (64.1) and Ronaldo (89.9) boast better minutes-per-goal records than Ibrahimovic (114.5).

And with Ibrahimovic turning 40 on the day of Milan's clash with Atalanta at Gewiss Stadium, Pioli does not believe retirement is in sight for the Swede, who has pulled out of his country's upcoming fixtures.

"I don't know how many years Zlatan can still play. But from what I see, his enthusiasm and his desire to train, I could also say that he could play forever," Pioli said at a news conference on Saturday previewing the Atalanta match.

"He may not be 100 per cent for many games but his passion for this sport is incredible. Zlatan does what he likes. If I could give him a gift, I would extend his career as much as possible.

"Zlatan is not available for the game, but he is feeling better and will use the two-week break to recover."

 

Milan have accrued 16 points from six matches this season and will equal their best start to a Serie A campaign in the three points per win era should they beat Atalanta.

The hosts held champions Inter to a 2-2 draw last week, but they have won just one of their five home league matches against Milan since Gian Piero Gasperini took charge in 2016-17.

Though Pioli is still expecting a tough test on Sunday in an early-season test of his side's Scudetto credentials.

"They are a strong team in every way, tactically, technically and physically. I expect a determined and complete Atalanta," Pioli said.

"I watched their game against Inter and it was spectacular. We have played many games of late but the same is true of our opponents. We will just try to play our best game."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been ruled out of Milan's Champions League clash at Liverpool after suffering an injury setback.

The 39-year-old former Manchester United striker made a goalscoring return for Milan as a substitute against Lazio on Sunday, coming on to tap in the second goal in a 2-0 Serie A victory.

That followed a four-month knee injury lay-off, and the Swedish frontman has now reportedly suffered discomfort in an Achilles, forcing him out of plans for Wednesday's Anfield tussle.

That means coach Stefano Pioli will name Ante Rebic or former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud as his attacking spearhead when he selects his side to face Jurgen Klopp's Reds.

Pioli stated Giroud would not be able to play a full 90 minutes, having returned from a spell on the sidelines after testing positive for COVID-19.

Speaking in a news conference on Tuesday, Pioli said: "Zlatan has had an inflammation; he gave it a go this morning but it's useless to take risks at this point of the season.

"I see AC Milan with Zlatan and I absolutely think we'll have him back soon. Absences are a part of football; I'll need to choose between Ante and Olivier but we have the cover."

Ibrahimovic has abundant Champions League experience, scoring 48 goals in the competition from 120 games, with nine of those coming for Milan between 2010 and 2012 in a previous spell with the Rossoneri.

The Swede has scored for more teams in the Champions League than any other player (six – Paris Saint-Germain, Milan, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona).

He arrived from LA Galaxy midway through the 2019-20 season and helped Pioli take Milan into the Champions League for the first time in eight years with last term's second-placed finish in Serie A. 

They last featured in the competition in the 2013-14 campaign, a worrying drought for the club that have won the European Cup or Champions League on seven occasions.

"Our growth over the past year is clear for all to see," Pioli said. "Our experiences have helped us to grow and improve, and the beginning of this season has shown that this team knows how to play and how to approach games.

"The level is higher now; it's what we wanted and it's a chance for us to show that we can mix it with the best."

Milan have won just one of their last 13 games against English opponents in European competition (D4 L8), with that lone victory a 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal at San Siro in the Champions League in February 2012.

Pioli, quoted on Milan's official website, said: "Many of us have never played in the Champions League, but football is football. We know what to do and how to try and play against a really strong side.

"We've prepared really well for this game. There are no easy fixtures in this group; our opponents are all highly competitive and have been playing European football for a while. It's a chance for us to start writing our own history; we have a lot of belief in our own quality."

Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a "fire within him" after he marked his return from injury on Sunday with a goal in Milan's 2-0 win over Lazio.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – was introduced as a substitute in the 60th minute and wasted little time making an impact, tapping in just seven minutes later to double his side's advantage.

They had earlier gone ahead thanks to Rafael Leao's second goal of the season, while Franck Kessie saw a penalty crash back off the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.

The result means Milan have won their first three Serie A fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Ibrahimovic will turn 40 next month, but Rossoneri boss Pioli insists his age will be no barrier to him enjoying another successful season at San Siro.

"Zlatan hadn't played for four months, so I'm glad he scored a goal and will get stronger in the next games," he told DAZN.

"He has this fire within him. The way he battles in training as well as games, all aiming to be the best. You don't feel the years when you do that."

 

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season, with his strike against Lazio coming from a joint game-high three shots.

While Pioli is expecting big things from the Portuguese forward, he urged him to sharpen up on his finishing.

"Rafa was already a strength for this team last season, but he's still 22 years old. It's only his third campaign in Italy, the second working with me," he added.

"He needs to become more efficient in the finish, because he almost always gets past his defender and just has to finish off more of those chances."

There was drama at the full-time whistle when Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri was shown a red card for an altercation with Alexis Saelemaekers.

Sarri played down the incident but was clearly unhappy with the Belgium international's behaviour.  

"It was nothing in particular," Sarri said.

"The young lad made a gesture that you shouldn't do to older people and Ibrahimovic then calmed everything down. These things happen on the pitch."

Milan maintained their 100 per cent start to the Serie A season as goals from Rafael Leao and the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic handed them a 2-0 win over Lazio at San Siro on Sunday.

After winning their opening two games of the 2020-21 campaign against Sampdoria and Cagliari, victory over Maurizio Sarri's Lazio, who had also won their first two games, means the Rossoneri have won their first three league fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Leao's second goal of the campaign set them on their way, although Stefano Pioli's side missed the opportunity to extend their advantage moments before the break when Franck Kessie struck the crossbar with a penalty.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – spared his team-mate's blushes just seven minutes after being introduced as a second-half substitute, tapping in as Milan's superb start to the season continued in style.

There was drama at the full-time whistle, with Sarri shown a red card by referee Daniele Chiffi after Ibrahimovic and Lucas Leiva had exchanged heated words.
 

Milan were dominant in the opening stages, taking seven shots by the half-hour mark, yet Pepe Reina had only one save to make in that time.

Davide Calabria was guilty of squandering their best early chance, the full-back lashing wide from 10 yards after being teed up by Ante Rebic.

The hosts did go in at the interval ahead, though, Leao stroking the ball into the bottom-left corner after a one-two with Rebic.

Pioli's men should have doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time, but Kessie struck his spot-kick against the crossbar after Chiffi penalised Ciro Immobile for a foul on the Milan midfielder following a pitchside review.

Milan picked up where they left off after the break and sealed maximum points in the 67th minute when Ibrahimovic stole in unmarked to nudge Rebic's cross into an empty net – the first time the Croatian has supplied two assists in a Serie A game.


What does it mean? Title tilt in Rossoneri’s sights

Their title charge faded in the closing months of the 2020-21 campaign, but Pioli's side have dusted themselves down and look ready to challenge again this term.

Lazio had scored nine goals in their opening two games of the season, yet Sarri’s outfit were swatted aside with the minimum of fuss at San Siro, with the hosts taking a whopping 21 shots to their opponents' eight.

Leao ready to shine

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season and looks set for a breakthrough campaign. The Portuguese prospect was a handful for the Lazio defence throughout and had taken three shots when he was substituted on the hour mark – a tally not bettered by anyone on the pitch by the end of the game.

Immobile sums up Lazio's woes

Immobile scored four goals in Lazio's first two Serie A games this season, but he did not get a sniff against Milan's miserly defence. The Italy international had just one shot and conceded a penalty before his substitution late on.

What's next?

Milan travel to Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday before visiting Juventus in the league on Sunday. Lazio take on Galatasaray in Turkey on Thursday in the Europa League before a home Serie A clash against Cagliari three days later.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing back at Old Trafford in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed his signing from Juventus.

The Portugal great has returned in a deal worth up to €23million (£19.7m), which was sensationally agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while, it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

Instead, he is heading back to the red side of Manchester.

With the deal now finalised, Stats Perform takes a look at other greats who went back to their former homes, starting with the Portugal captain...

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his previous spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who loved a stepover and leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and ice-cold finisher. His then-world-record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is returning to England. Whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, but United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Boca Juniors

Synonymous with Boca Juniors, Riquelme made his professional debut for the Buenos Aires giants and returned to the club for the majority of his final years as a player, following spells with Barcelona and Villarreal. After a breakdown in his relationship with Manuel Pellegrini, Riquelme – the classic number 10 – returned to Boca initially on loan in 2007, going on to stay until 2014. He helped Boca win the Copa Libertadores in 2007, the Recopa Sudamericana a year later, Apertura titles in 2008 and 2011 and the Copa Argentina in 2011-12. He is currently Boca's vice-president.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Milan

After a difficult spell under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Ibrahimovic – who had excelled at both Juventus and Inter – moved back to Italy, joining the Nerrazurri's city rivals Milan on loan for 2010-11. He became an instant star for the Rossoneri, picking up where he left off in Italy with 21 goals, a tally he bettered in 2011-12, scoring 35 times in all competitions. Paris Saint-Germain came calling and he went on to become the Ligue 1 giants' record goalscorer (a title now held by Edinson Cavani), before joining Manchester United and LA Galaxy. Despite being in his late 30s, Ibrahimovic still had more to offer and rejoined Milan for the back half of the 2019-20 campaign, netting 11 goals. He carried on his form into an injury hit 2020-21, scoring a further 16 times, and he is set to be a pivotal figure at San Siro once again this season.

Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea

Part of United's reasoning behind signing Ronaldo was to perhaps ensure they kept pace with their title rivals. For the past two seasons, Ronaldo has gone head-to-head with Lukaku in Serie A. Though Ronaldo won the battle last season, scoring 29 league goals, compared to Lukaku's 24, it was the Belgian who won the war by leading Inter to the title, and now the duo will face off again in the Premier League after Chelsea smashed their transfer record to re-sign the 28-year-old 10 years on from his initial arrival from Anderlecht. Lukaku did not manage to push himself into the starting XI back then and was loaned out to West Brom and Everton, before moving to Goodison Park on a permanent deal in 2014. He returns to Stamford Bridge as the complete package, however, and bullied Arsenal's defence on his second debut, scoring the opener in a 2-0 win for the European champions.

Didier Drogba – Chelsea

Part of the allure for Lukaku returning to Chelsea was to emulate his icon Drogba, who left Stamford Bridge after helping the Blues clinch a Champions League crown in 2012. The Ivorian went back to west London in the 2014-15 season, with Drogba explaining he could not turn down the chance to work with Jose Mourinho once again. He scored four league goals in 28 appearances to help Chelsea win the title, before heading off for a swansong in MLS with the Montreal Impact.

Thierry Henry – Arsenal

Another Premier League great, Henry rejoined Arsenal on a short-term loan deal at the start of 2012. He scored on his second debut against Leeds United in the FA Cup, converting his only attempt of the game in a 22-minute cameo from the bench. He went on to play a further six times, scoring in the Premier League against Sunderland, before he returned to the New York Red Bulls to round off a wonderful career.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham were by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man United and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon the forward's return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Wayne Rooney – Everton

With Lukaku joining Man United in 2017, it opened the door for Everton to bring back Rooney, who had left his boyhood club in 2004 on the back of a stellar performance at Euro 2004. Then just 18, Rooney went on to become United's record goalscorer – and England's, too – and he returned to Goodison Park for the 2017-18 season. He scored on his league debut, heading in the winner against Stoke City, and though he netted 11 times in total for the Toffees, a difficult season saw Ronald Koeman sacked and replaced with Sam Allardyce, who was subsequently shuffled out of the door for Marco Silva. With Everton looking to go in a new direction, Rooney left to join MLS side DC United in 2018.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend had not finished playing yet, though, and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Stefano Pioli is open to fielding Olivier Giroud alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic this season after the Frenchman opened his Milan account with two goals against Cagliari.

Giroud curled in a delightful first-time shot to get off the mark on his San Siro bow and doubled his tally from the penalty spot in Sunday's Serie A clash as Milan ran out 4-1 winners.

With that first-half double, Giroud became the first player to score multiple times in his first home league match for the Rossoneri since Mario Balotelli in February 2013.

Ibrahimovic has been Milan's go-to man up top when fit since returning to the Italian club in January 2020, but the veteran striker is currently sidelined with a knee injury sustained in May.

Pioli hopes to have Ibrahimovic back after the international break in two weeks' time, however, and he is not against tweaking formation to pair the Swede with Giroud in attack.

"I am very open to all situations," Milan head coach Pioli told DAZN. "I'll take it one game at a time to pick the best line-up for that match. 

"When we have the need for two strikers, I will not hesitate to use them together. I just hope to have everyone back to full fitness."

 

Ibrahimovic watched from the stands as Giroud added to goals from Sandro Tonali and Rafael Leao, which came either side of Alessandro Deiola's temporary equaliser in the first half.

Milan scored four-plus goals in the opening half of a Serie A fixture for the first time since November 2011.

Asked if he is looking forward to linking up with former Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic, Giroud said: "He is a great champion and very important in the locker room. 

"We want to play together, but I am happy playing with any of my team-mates. It doesn't matter who plays, it's important to respect the decisions of the coach."

It was the first time Giroud has scored a league brace since April 2018, for Chelsea against Southampton, and the 34-year-old revelled in the manner his home debut turned out.

"I'm very proud to play for Milan and in a stadium like San Siro," he told DAZN. "I'm happy with the team performance because we started the game playing our style of football. 

"We really connected on the pitch and could've scored more, while the support from the fans was incredible."

Giroud has inherited the number nine shirt at Milan, which is one of the most iconic jerseys in football but has more recently become a poisoned chalice of sorts.

Mario Mandzukic, Krzysztof Piatek and Gonzalo Higuain have all failed to live up to its reputation, yet Giroud is unfazed by the weight of expectation.

"I heard there was something special about the number nine shirt, but I am not superstitious," he said. "I believe in myself and my abilities. 

"As a kid, I watched Marco van Basten, Jean-Pierre Papin and Filippo Inzaghi wear this shirt, so it makes me happy to be here now."

Milan have won their opening two Serie A games this season, just like they did last time out, but face a tough run of games upon their return to action next month.

The Rossoneri meet a Lazio side sitting top of the division on goal difference and rivals Juventus in their next two league matches, either side of kicking off their Champions League return with a trip to Liverpool.

"We've got a remarkable run of games coming up after the break, so we need to keep this mentality and enthusiasm," Pioli said.

"If we really want a positive future, we must treat everyone as first-choice players. We're missing some at the moment, a couple more might arrive, but we must train the way we want to play and play the way we train.

"We are getting used to playing entertaining football and enjoying ourselves, but we must also remember that the great teams are also capable of winning ugly."

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