The international break has given Zlatan Ibrahimovic a chance to rest both mentally and physically, says Milan assistant Daniele Bonera.
Ibrahimovic has eight goals and one assist in five Serie A appearances for Milan this term, his most recent strike earning his side a dramatic 2-2 draw against Hellas Verona.
However, the 39-year-old missed his third penalty of the season in the same game and later admitted he was feeling tired.
Bonera feels the two-week period without club fixtures came at the perfect time for Ibrahimovic, who missed nearly a month of action earlier in the campaign after testing positive for coronavirus.
“He needed to have a break mentally,” said Bonera, who will be in charge for Sunday’s trip to Napoli as Stefano Pioli continues to self-isolate after he contracted COVID-19.
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“He has always presented himself as a team leader and he is someone whose importance is known.”
With his goal against Verona, Ibrahimovic became the first player to score in seven consecutive Serie A appearances for Milan in the three-points-per-win era.
He has 18 goals in 23 Serie A outings since returning to San Siro in January, a tally bettered only by Ciro Immobile (23 in 27 games) and Cristiano Ronaldo (27 in 23).
The ex-Sweden international recently stated he will let Franck Kessie take the next penalty following his latest miss and Bonera is happy to go along with that decision.
“If he said Kessie will take it then I raise my hands. If that’s what he said then it will be Franck,” Bonera said at Saturday’s pre-match news conference.
While Ibrahimovic ranks highly for Serie A goals scored in the calendar year, only Luis Alberto (75) and Papu Gomez (77) have created more chances than Hakan Calhanoglu’s tally of 73 over the same period of time.
The attacking midfielder has been unable to agree a new deal with Milan and is due to become a free agent at the end of the season, but Bonera has no doubt about the player’s commitment while talks continue.
“We are very happy with the performance of Calhanoglu,” he said. “I don’t want to speak about his contract but yesterday he made me understand that he cares about this shirt.”
Milan are winless in their last 11 league encounters with Napoli and have won only one of their 14 top-flight meetings at Stadio San Paolo this century.