Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confessed he planned to join Napoli when he left LA Galaxy in early 2020 but instead landed back in AC Milan.
The nomadic Swede enjoyed two prolific years in Major League Soccer and had attracted plenty of interest from Europe, with a number of Serie A sides particularly keen to bring him in at the time.
Milan eventually won the race for his signature, but Ibrahimovic has now revealed he was actually expecting to join Napoli after a love of Diego Maradona inspired him to pursue a move to the club.
“Maradona is a myth. Seeing a documentary about him I decided to go to Napoli, to do like Diego: win the Scudetto,” he confessed (via La Gazzetta dello Sport). “I was tired of America. I thought I would quit. [Mino} Raiola told me ‘you’re crazy, you have to go back to Italy’.
“It was done with Napoli; but then De Laurentiis kicked out [Carlo] Ancelotti. So I asked Mino, ‘who’s the worst team that I can save?’. He replied ‘yesterday Milan lost 5 to 0 in Bergamo’. Then it’s decided, I said ‘let’s go to Milan. It’s a club I know, a city I like’.”
Ancelotti was sacked in December 2019, the same month that Ibrahimovic left LA Galaxy. While the Italian ended up joining Everton, Ibrahimovic kept his sights focused on Serie A and joined Milan, whom he has helped turn into title contenders once again.
“At the beginning, nobody ran in training,” Ibrahimovic continued. “I faced them one by one, and not on the sidelines but in front of everyone.
“I said ‘in training, you have to kill yourselves with work. If I run, if I kill myself, my team-mates must run and kill themselves for me’. Everyone understood it, except one.
“[Rafael] Leao didn’t pay attention to me at first. He got there on his own. Honestly, he has improved a lot.”