Stefano Pioli is ‘not surprised’ by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s record-breaking form and hopes he ‘continues playing with us’ in future, as Milan crush Crotone 4-0 to recapture top spot.
These were two very special goals, as 39-year-old Ibrahimovic netted his 500th and 501st at club level.
“Seeing how Ibra trains, we can’t be surprised, because he’s a champion. It’s difficult to maintain his current form, as when he’s been in shape and started, he almost always scored two goals, but this is what he’s like,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.
When he was substituted, Ibrahimovic made a gesture towards the directors in the stands that means ‘two, go again.’ Was it a message about his contract extension talks?
“Zlatan is happy with us and I think the best thing about this team is that the players are happy. We are with a huge club, everyone wants to do well and I think it’s right that he continues playing, and that he does it with us.
“He is an athlete who is highly motivated, is scrupulous in the way he looks after his body with everything from diet to recovery. He’s tired, but you don’t stay at this level for this long without looking after yourself.
“It’s almost a race nowadays between the players to get to training early and leave later than anyone else. We’re enjoying ourselves and want to give our best.”
It ended 4-0, but was only 1-0 up until the 64th minute, when Ibrahimovic completed his brace and Ante Rebic struck twice in 60 seconds.
“The team did well to believe in a certain type of football, because it was by no means an easy game, and we deserved the victory.”
Inter had won on Friday at Fiorentina, so the motivation was to chase them down and recapture furst place.
“Our motivation must be to win every game. We are aware of our capabilities and what we can give, so we are satisfied when we do get the victory, but it’s too early to look at the table. We have to take it one game at a time and know there’s going to be tougher times ahead with the Europa League and matches every three days.
“I am fortunate to work with a club that chose players who are very strong, mentally and physically, with specific characteristics that can complete the squad.”
The Milan Derby is coming up against rivals Inter, who sit in second place, so will that be the decisive moment in the title race?
“It’s a very balanced league with many clubs crammed up within a few points. I continue to maintain the top seven can challenge for the Scudetto or for a Champions League place. We know that the more we go on, the more important every result becomes, but we want to keep taking it one game at a time.”