Ibrahimovic presents new Milan project: ‘Fonseca is the right man’

Zlatan Ibrahimovic presented the new Milan project, discussing the reasons behind Paulo Fonseca’s appointment and the club’s transfer market priorities.

The Rossoneri are ready to make some sweeping changes ahead of the 2024-25 season, having bid farewell to coach Stefano Pioli after five years at the helm. The club are now working on their transfer market priorities, like Bologna striker Joshua Zirkzee.

In the meantime, Milan are finally ready to welcome Fonseca, who will sign a multi-year deal and start a new project at the club. Some fans have expressed concern over the Portuguese coach, who’ll have to prove the doubters wrong in the new campaign.

Ibrahimovic on Milan project and Fonseca

Speaking in a press conference via TMW, Ibrahimovic first discussed his role in the Milan management.

“After six months I’ve already got grey hair, it means I’m working. After 20-25 years in football you have more freedom, I have two children to whom I’m dedicating time that I couldn’t dedicate to them before due to matches, travel, hotels.

“After six months of being out of action, Furlani called me, and it all started. Then I spoke to Cardinale, just me and him, he proposed that I return to Milan, to be a partner of RedBird.

“I told him ‘If I return to Milan, the project must be successful’. I won’t accept losing, it’s not that I don’t like it, I won’t accept it. I want to win, and I will win. Cardinale replied: ‘Welcome’.”

He spoke about the qualities of club owner Gerry Cardinale.

“He’s a winner, he’s ambitious like me. He wants to create a project that can work now and in the future, in the long run. I told him: ‘I’m the right man for you’.”

Ibrahimovic explained his role at Milan.

“My role is simple, I’m the operating partner of RedBird, I speak with Cardinale and collaborate with Moncada and Furlani. It’s not a one man show, I work with everyone at Milan, from Milanello to Vismara. We are a team.”

He commented on the club’s summer transfer market plans.

“The next step is to strengthen the team, to be more competitive. We want to win trophies, in Italy and in Europe, because we are Milan. The ambition is to fight for trophies every year. Milan don’t just win, Milan make history. Whoever joins Milan must have that same ambition.

“Whoever is already at Milan and doesn’t think like this will not have space. We’re not satisfied with the last season, we agree with the fans. We must not limit ourselves.”

Ibrahimovic expanded on the Rossoneri’s strategy.

“I’m optimistic, I’m positive. We have a group of directors who are hungry. We have a plan that we are following, we’re confident in what we do. We have a strategy.

“The future is positive. Everyone does this job for Milan, not personal objectives. Everything we do is for Milan and for the best. We are working, even if there is silence.”

He thanked Pioli for his work.

“I want to say thanks to Pioli, from me and from the club. He made history, he deserves all the compliments he’s received.”

Ibrahimovic confirmed Milan’s appointment of Fonseca.

“He’ll be the new coach, it was a thoughtful choice. We want Milan to be able to play dominant football. We studied how he coaches, how he prepares matches. After five years we needed something new. Fonseca is the right man, we believe in him so much. He’s the right man.”

He discussed the Rossoneri’s search for a new striker.

“Last year Milan made a great transfer market, we needed to lay the foundations. This market will focus above all on details. After Giroud’s departure, we need a new number 9.

“Jovic is there, but we are looking for a new striker. Zirkzee is a strong player, he comes from a great season. He comes from the Netherlands, whether he is another Ibra or not… there is a big difference between reality and what is said and written.”

The former Sweden striker was asked about the interest in Julen Lopetegui.

“Every day there was a new name in the newspapers. Furlani wanted a coach, Ibra another, Cardinale another. Fans another. There are rumours and then there is reality.”

Ibrahimovic spoke about the shared strategy with Fonesca.

“When we decided to say goodbye to Pioli, we evaluated and spoke with Fonseca. Every day we talk and share the strategy. He has his wishes.

“We also have a very important U23 project for us, we want to connect it to the first team and Fonseca is someone who it gives opportunities and responsibility to young players.

“If you have a genius as a coach and a weak team you can achieve a miracle once, maybe twice… We want to put the coach in the best conditions possible.”

He was asked about the club’s plan to win the second Scudetto star.

“I speak the same language and have the same ambition as Gerry (Cardinale, ed.). I wouldn’t have joined here if there wasn’t a winning project. When we won the Scudetto they said we weren’t in the top four in the league, but it’s not a given that we wouldn’t win. The objective is win.

“Everything we do is to win trophies by making a competitive team. There are no guarantees, but what we are doing is achieving the objectives we have set ourselves according to the strategy we have, being intelligent and smart.

“We’re not here to flex our muscles by showing that we can spend more than everyone else, because that’s not the reality.”

Ibrahimovic was also asked why Milan didn’t go for Antonio Conte.

“First we studied the type of coach and the approach to his game. Paulo Fonseca came out and we spoke to him face to face, so you get to know him, you have a feeling. He is very ambitious, he has a great desire to work, to do well and to improve. In Milan there is a coach, not a manager.

“We didn’t talk with Conte because of the criteria we set, with all due respect to him, they weren’t what we were looking for.”

He challenged the idea that Inter’s Scudetto win made him suffer.

“Suffered, no, I don’t suffer. This word is for a loser. Here you’re talking to a winner, so Inter give us energy to do even more.”

Ibrahimovic spoke about Milan’s new stadium project.

“Gerry wants to create and do something new and the idea of ​​the stadium, for me, is brilliant. The Milan fans deserve a stadium that is impressive. The Americans of entertainment and show know what to do. Then on the stadium Furlani will respond.”

He confirmed that the top players would remain this summer.

“Theo and Maignan will stay, Leao too. They are among the strongest players in their roles and have a contract with us, they are happy. We don’t need to sell. Thanks to RedBird’s work we can bring in strong players to improve the squad.

“Last year we laid the foundation. The striker is not a secret, we want to get him. The market is every day and player reports arrive every day. A thousand calls every day to propose players, they also call you to create chances.

“To finalize a transfer is a process we’re following. For us, the important thing is the profile, they can also be the best players in the world, but if it’s not in our profile we won’t sign them.”

Ibrahimovic was asked about the importance of his relationship with Enzo Raiola.

“I chose not to talk to the agents, I don’t want to have a dialogue with them, I’m still black or white, while Furlani and Moncada are grey. I come from the Mino school, from the Galliani school, which are more upright.

“If the agents make mistakes with me, I’m black or white. Today, we’ll see. Then if situations arise, we’ll go inside and talk.”

He was questioned why Milan didn’t go for an Italian coach.

“Conte? For what we were looking for, Conte’s name didn’t come up. It depends on the material you have. For us, the best for what we have and for the identity we want to bring is Paulo Fonseca.

“It was important for us to take a coach who was it good for the team we have. Italian players are on the list we are looking at, but today… We don’t have anyone in the national team, even if in my opinion Gabbia should have been there.”

Ibrahimovic spoke about agent commissions, in reference to the Zirkzee situation.

“When we talk about negotiations, we think that the club are under pressure and are trying to exploit the situation. It’s a negotiation, it goes back and forth, it’s not a charity. It has to go well for the club. We’re smart and intelligent, it’s not rock and roll.”

He touched on the club’s ambitions for the Champions League.

“I want to win as much as possible, obviously. Then I don’t want revenge in the Champions League as a director… I want to make a difference, with the idea and my vision.

“Here I’m starting from scratch. As a player it was something else. I want to win the Champions League, obviously. We’re working to make history.”

Ibrahimovic was asked about the contract renewals of Theo Hernandez and Mike Maignan.

“In their situations everything is possible, perhaps you know more than me about their requests… Since Red Bird has been around, we can have these conversations without getting into financial difficulty.

“We don’t want to go into the negative. Thanks to this work, we have the possibility of doing many things that are important.”

He spoke about Milan’s plan to improve.

“We have a strategy to follow, then it’s the details that make the difference. We are like a Formula 1 car that goes fast on the track, but if you go too fast you go off track. You have to be controlled. Getting to the top is easier than staying there. We want to stay there in our own way.”

Ibrahimovic discussed the possibility of other investors arriving at the club.

“I haven’t spoken to them until now, whether I will depends on Cardinale. There was no mention of investors. Furlani will respond for more details. I represent RedBird, sport, entertainment, a little fashion, I’m a winner and I’m not afraid of the challenges.”

He was asked how he’s finding the role at the Rossoneri.

“I’m not an employee of Milan, but I am part of the ownership. Former players bring their ego when they become directors, because they think they know everything. I’m doing the opposite, I start from scratch, I have to grow and learn. I don’t work as a coach, Furlani does his job better than me.”

Ibrahimovic commented on why he didn’t speak up before.

“When there is something to say, we communicate. I just joined, we chose not to immediately enter into communication to see how it goes. It’s not my show, it doesn’t work like that. The important thing is to be united. Talking all the time isn’t my way of working.

“We’re not satisfied, like the fans. Then the last few weeks seemed a bit exaggerated… We played behind closed doors and we didn’t win, with the fans we won immediately. The fans are very important to us, this team, they give us strength. We are not satisfied either.”

He spoke about how he transmitted the pressure to the American ownership.

“When we talk about Americans, they have been in Italian football for a while now and they know the effect of what it means to win and lose. I know how they work in the USA. Here there is a mix between Americans and us who work here day after day.”

Ibrahimovic discussed how players are chosen for the squad.

“Everything positive is reinvested in the first team, we want to improve it as much as possible, then there is also the U23, but everything is for the first team. They are shared choices. Then in the end I make the decision and they follow me!”

He responded to concerns from the fans regarding Fonseca.

“For us, Fonseca is the top coach, otherwise he wouldn’t be the Milan coach. I can say to the fans that a new football is coming, always with respect for Pioli, a dominant, offensive football is coming, with a defensive balance.

“There will be another energy. Pioli was bald, Fonseca has more hair, but always elegance.”

He was asked how to interpret his social media posts.

“I have fun with social media, either I send messages, or indirect messages, you have to be a bit Inspector Clouseau to understand. You play games, when I play them, I get to 100 million… You don’t know. You want 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1?”

Ibrahimovic spoke about the younger average age of the squad.

“Next year’s team will be even younger and Fonseca likes to work with young players. We are without Giroud and Kjaer, we will be even younger than last year. This is why Fonseca’s role will be important.”

He was questioned about the distance between Milan and the top clubs.

“Well, these are moments. We want to have stability to compete with the biggest clubs in Europe. It all starts in Italy, we have a competitive team, which can fight, we want to give more competition to the players who are there today to bring more results, but always with our profiles.”

Ibrahimovic gave his thoughts on Francesco Camarda.

“Camarda is more talented than me at his age. He is the future of Milan, but he doesn’t have all the responsibility on him. We have to protect him, make him grow to become what we think he can. With him we have to take it step by step, without going too fast. We’re happy.

“He could be part of a group like former Milan players who went through the entire youth sector and then got to the first team. We need to strengthen the youth sector even more, a strong academy to bring players to the first team.

“For me, too little come out for the possibilities we have, so for this reason we’re making the U23 squad, the gap is too big between the Primavera and the first team; With the U23s we will give our young players more time to prepare for the adult game.”

Finally, Ibrahimovic closed out his long press conference.

“I don’t need someone to protect me, I’m strong. If I make a mistake, I’ll say I made a mistake. And that’s it.”

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