Antonio Conte Says He Tried to Sign 'Champion' Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Chelsea

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2020

NAPLES, ITALY - JANUARY 06: Antonio Conte FC Internazionale coach gestures during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and FC Internazionale at Stadio San Paolo on January 06, 2020 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte has said he tried to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he was in charge of Chelsea

Ibrahimovic made his return to Italian football this month, as he signed with AC Milan for a second spell following a two-year stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer.

Conte was at the helm of Chelsea between 2016 and 2018, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup. When asked about his Milan rivals' latest acquisition, the 50-year-old revealed that he had previously sought to tempt the striker to Stamford Bridge, per Tommaso Fiore of Sky Sports:

"I welcome back Ibrahimovic, he is a great champion. He knows well there was a moment when I tried to convince him to come to Chelsea, but he was in a recovery phase and eventually he didn't feel like accepting.

"He is a person I have a lot of respect for. I think he can give AC Milan a lot and he can bring personality by making the environment more responsible.

"For a coach, it's important to find players in teams who can convey your word. Players who know what you want, who lead the team. When a coach has those kind of players then things get a lot easier."

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Ibrahimovic agreed to join Manchester United in 2016, although he was released by the club come the end of the season, having suffered a serious knee injury. After recovering, he agreed another short-term deal with the Red Devils in 2017 before joining the Galaxy a year later.

Now back in Milan, it will be fascinating to see how the forward fares. Per ESPN FC, he made his second debut for the club as a substitute in the recent 0-0 draw with Sampdoria:

As Cristian Nyari of DAZN relayed, while he may be in the twilight years of his career, Ibrahimovic still commands a lot of attention:

Milan have struggled for long spells of the season and languish down in 12th place in Serie A. They will be hoping the potency Ibrahimovic had in front of goal in MLS translates to the Italian top flight, while his leadership will also be crucial to the side.

Conte's Inter are currently streaks ahead of their city rivals, as they sit joint-top of the Italian top flight with Juventus.

Getting the San Siro club to the summit of the table is a remarkable achievement by Conte; per Italian Football TV, after Inter's win over Napoli on Monday, he reached a significant landmark:

Given they are both huge personalities, it would have been fascinating to see Conte and Ibrahimovic on the same side. 

However, they are now rivals in Milan, albeit will have very different ambitions to achieve between now and the end of the campaign. Fans won't have to wait long for Conte and Ibrahimovic to clash though, with the next Derby della Madonnina on February 2.

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