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After playing for Italian football's three biggest clubs in the space of six years, Zlatan Ibrahimović is a player whose itinerant career path might provoke a mixed response from some supporters.
Yet the 29-year-old has not finished a national champion for seven years running for no reason and, having helped establish AC Milan at the Serie A summit, the former Juventus and FC Internazionale Milano forward is the man whom Rossoneri fans will look to when Tottenham Hotspur FC visit San Siro in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday.
Since joining Massimiliano Allegri's side on loan from FC Barcelona last summer, Ibrahimović has struck four of their seven goals in the UEFA Champions League group stage as well as 13 in 23 Serie A outings and one in two Coppa Italia games. Curiously, he had not scored in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League nor against English opponents before last term – when he netted against VfB Stuttgart and Arsenal FC – but he would be quite happy to draw another blank in the double-header with Tottenham so long as Milan progress.
I'm enjoying my positive moment, but now it's important that my team win, not that I can score," said the Swedish international, who hopes Milan's greater experience will tell against a Spurs team new to the UEFA Champions League. "The experience that Milan have in Europe makes the difference. It's an advantage for me – many of the players here have won the Champions League and this gives confidence to us all.
"Tomorrow we will play an important game but we have to keep in mind that there's also the return leg. Tottenham are a big team, they're showing their quality in the English Premier League," Ibrahimović added of Harry Redknapp's visitors. "I think they're growing, they are reaping the fruits of their labour. It won't be easy for us, I think they are at the same level as Arsenal."
When Antonio Cassano arrived at Milan in January, the Italian betting agencies seemed to believe it was just a matter of time before the Italy forward fell out with Ibrahimović. On the contrary, the pair have shown a great understanding, and Ibrahimović defended his reputation when he said: "I get along with my team-mates now, you know. I'm not 20 years old any more; I don't feel like punching the wall or messing things up now.
The fact Cassano is unavailable in Europe – he had already played in UEFA Champions League qualifying and the UEFA Europa League group stage for UC Sampdoria – is not good news for Milan but Ibrahimović feels they have enough options to compensate, citing the importance of Robinho, whom he considers "a fantastic player". He added: "Tomorrow we must also try not to concede. I am happy here [at Milan] because there are many chances to win, and we must get the first victory tomorrow."
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