AC Milan brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the San Siro on-loan from FC Barcelona during the 2010-11 season. The Swedish striker was sensational for the Rossoneri during the Serie A campaign as he helped to lead them back to the top of Italy's elite, as the club lifted their 18th Scudetto.
In 2011-12 his goal contributions almost doubled as he went from 21 goals the season prior to 35 last year. However, despite the players massive talent and ability, there seemed to be something that could eventually be a deal breaker for him.
The problem is, and was, Ibrahimovic is a selfish player. His desire for goal the majority of the time will see him sit on the ball far too long trying to make his own shot, rather than be part of the team and continue to create.
Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that the Swedish international has averaged 12 assists per season over the last five years, but he could have more than doubled that each year had he fired a few less shots.
Ibrahimovic took 176 shots for Milan in 2011-12, the two seasons before with Milan and Barcelona he averaged 140 per season. In many ways he potentially missed 36 chances to set up a teammate.
Ironically the last time he took over 175 shots in a season, 2008-09 with Inter Milan, he was then sold.
Many fans were angered when they heard that Milan were going to sell Thiago Silva, but when the addition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined the massive deal bound for Paris Saint Germain there was a profound sense of loss.
However, the belief that the club are to be left with little hope of a great season and chance to make a push to regain their Italian title is a false one.
Yes the club lost a player that scored 28 goals and had 14 assists, but they brought in the players that could help fill the voids of not only Ibrahimovic but also his support.
The key acquisition is in the form of Italian international midfielder Riccardo Montolivo—who also is joined by recent acquisitions, Sulley Muntari from the January window and Kevin Constant signed in June as reported by Goal.com.
Montonlivo is thought to be the Rossoneri's new Pirlo and his link play this summer with the Italian national team and in preseason for Milan, has already shown his skills in the center of the park.
In an interview from Gazzetta dello Sport, as quoted by Goal.com, Montolivo expressed that he felt the club were not getting weaker ahead of the coming season:
I do not think Milan are struggling.
Sure, the club have lost two phenomenal players.
But they were a big club before Ibrahimovic and Thiago arrived and they will remain big even without them.
However, with the massive amount of cash raised from Ibrahimovic's sale and the ability for the side to focus on their core of young talent, Milan are a club set in a better place.
RIccardo Montolivo, Sulley Muntari, Antonio Nocerino and Mathieu Flamini are all seasoned professionals, but are all still on the right side of 30.
The wings of Kevin Prince Boateng and Robinho are only 25 and 28-years-old respectively. While attacking midfielders, Kevin Constant and Urby Emmanuelson are only 25 and 26.
Most importantly the believed future one-two punch of Milan in attack are 19-year-old Stephan El Shaaraway and 22-year-old Brazilian Alexadre Pato.
The two will get to make full use of their creative midfield backing this summer as the chance for the club to rely on teamwork over individual effort is set to be put to the test. Pato will be healthy and Shaaraway looked great in preseason.
Antonio Cassano is the oldest of the Milan forward and is likely to see more time in the early part of the season. However, that veteran leadership is just what young players need to push on to their potential.
Milan finally have a chance to prove that they do not need a massive import striker to win matches—and the belief that the board are showing in the current generation of youngsters is great to see.
Without Ibrahimovic the club is destined to move on to greater things. The Rossoneri are now a club that has to be about creativity and teamwork—and become a team ready to succeed more than ever.
Out of the ashes, the club will rise a new—and the creative attack of AC Milan is set to see the club be a formidable opponent for all that stand in their way of trying to achieve a 19th league title.
Statistics compiled from ESPNSoccernet.com.