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AC Milan fear season-ending injury for Zlatan

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have suffered a season-ending injury, AC Milan fear.

The Swedish superstar, 38, is said to have injured his Achilles in training on Monday as he took a shot.

Per our partners Sky Sport in Italy, they say that Ibrahimovic is having scans to determine the severity of his injury.

Ibrahimovic suffered a similar injury earlier in 2020 as he was out during January and February and it appears he has aggravated his Achilles once again.

After a successful, and eventful, two years in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy, Zlatan returned to AC Milan for a second-stint and his current contract is due to run out at the end of June.

AC Milan were keen to exercise the option to extend his deal until the end of next season, as Zlatan had scored four goals in his first 10 games back at the Rossoneri, including a stunner in the Milan derby against one of his other former clubs, Inter Milan.

Serie A aims to restart the 2019-20 season in mid-June and play until the end of July, as Italy has bit hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. But if Zlatan has suffered a serious Achilles injury, that could be it for his second-coming at AC Milan and perhaps for his career overall.

Surely we haven’t seen the last of Zlatan? Surely he has at least another 10 years, at least, left in the tank?

Transfer rumor roundup: Zlatan to Sweden or Bologna; Tolisso to Man Utd

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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Where next for Zlatan Ibrahimovic? One of his former bosses says it will not be AC Milan.

The tamper is strong in Bologna.

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I Veltri coach Sinisa Mihajlovic says he’d like to see the megawatt striker join his club. Mihajlovic played at Inter and moved into the coaching staff when Ibrahimovic joined the club from Juventus in 2006.

From Goal.com:

“He called me a few days ago and we’ll see what he decides to do in the summer,” Mihajlovic told Serbian show Vece sa Ivanom Ivanovicem. “He certainly won’t remain at Milan, it remains to be seen whether he’ll join us or return to Sweden.”

A return to Sweden would be an intriguing plot. Ibrahimovic started his journey to become a national hero at Malmo, earning a statue near the stadium. But his purchase of a stake in Swedish club Hammarby led to anger, as vandals cut off the statue at the ankles.

He’s played for rivals (Juve, Inter, AC Milan) but this would be an eye-popper, as would his taking the field as both a Sweden national team icon and polarizing figure. But with Zlatan, you can’t even rule out massive Malmo rivals Helsingborg or Goteborg.

Bologna could be a good fit, with Mihajlovic not just an old friend but an able coach.

He was hired by Bologna in January 2019 and he brought the club from the relegation picture to a 10th-place finish. The club is 10th again this season, just five points back of a European place.

Mihajlovic showed remarkable strength in coaching the club while being treated for leukemia. He was shuttled from the bench back to the hospital in a late August match.

Manchester United is being added to the list of clubs looking at World Cup winner Corentin Tolisso.

Tolisso, 25, has also been linked with Arsenal after arriving in a Bundesliga record transfer from Lyon in 2017.

He’s only played around 1000 minutes this season and is a doubt to return after season-ending ankle surgery. Tolisso has 21 France caps and was a part of the World Cup-winning squad in 2018.

For his career, Tolisso has 14 goals and 12 assists with Bayern in 68 games, a bit better than his 29 and 17 in 160 for Lyon (though those figures include his formative years).

He’s an excellent passer who has not been asked to do a ton defensively over the past two seasons, though he was a box-to-box star in Lyon and had better numbers in different roles during his first two seasons in Germany.

His contract is up next summer and Bayern may want to cash in now.

Sweden not planning to test soccer players for virus

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Swedish soccer players and coaches will not be required to take a test for COVID-19 before training sessions or matches as part of the country’s proposed return-to-play protocol during the pandemic.

Instead, they will have to fill in a self-assessment form each morning and email it to their club doctor no later than two hours before arriving for training, or before arriving at a stadium for a match. The doctor will then assess whether the players and coaches are healthy enough to take part.

They must stay at home if they have any symptoms.

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It follows the general principle adopted in Swedish society that only people who “are feeling so ill that they must visit a hospital get a full-scale corona test,” the Swedish league told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

”So, in line with that, we do not have the opportunity to test our players.”

The return-to-play protocols for training and professional matches, which were published by the Swedish league on Tuesday, have been presented to the country’s Public Health Authority.

The authority is expected to decide this week whether the top two Swedish leagues can start next month. They are hoping to begin playing matches on June 14, more than two months after the initially scheduled start date.

Swedish society hasn’t completely shut down during the virus outbreak because the government and health authorities have chosen not to impose as many restrictions as other countries.

That is reflected in its proposed return-to-play protocols in soccer, which differ to other leagues in Europe.

Just across the border in Denmark, for example, players and certain staff members will make self-examinations before training sessions, then enter a “testing regime” before league games or friendlies against other clubs, Danish Superliga chief executive Claus Thomsen told the AP.

Every player will be tested once before matches and probably on a weekly basis, or more, after that.

“It is not a small expense for clubs of the size of the Danish league,” Thomsen said. “But it is an expense we will carry.”

The Danish league is planning to resume on May 28.

In Germany, where soccer will resume this weekend, players and staff in the top two men’s leagues in Germany had to undergo two rounds of testing prior to resuming full team training last week. They will also require regular tests prior to each game.

It’s estimated it will require a minimum of 20,000 tests to finish the season.

In England, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said Monday the tests set to be used by players were developed by the sister company of the one used by the Bundesliga.

Fear grips Swedish soccer as virus delays start of season

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Saturday was supposed to mark the beginning of a new soccer season in Sweden, fuelled by the prospect of big broadcasting revenues from a new domestic TV deal and expectations of another tight title race to match last year’s dramatic finale.

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Then, in two months’ time, Sweden’s national team was supposed to be playing in the European Championship, with confidence high two years after a run to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 1994.

Instead, the rapidly spreading coronavirus has forced a two-month delay to the Allsvenskan campaign – the “early June” start date will now be viewed as optimistic by many – the cancellation of the Euros, and led to some Swedish clubs fearing they might soon go out of business.

A bleak picture is being painted by members of Sweden’s top league, the starkest coming this week from Helsingborg.

“The truth is,” the southern club’s president, Krister Azelius, said, “that the effects of the coronavirus have hit us so hard that we have to question our future existence.”

While a big debate has recently broken out in England about the extent to which players should be giving up some of their wages during the pandemic, many of their Swedish counterparts on much lower salaries have already been put on leave and/or received pay cuts.

A suspension of the league beyond June doesn’t really bear thinking about.

“It’s a worry – this is not just a ‘press pause’ situation,” Kevin Walker, a midfielder for defending champion Djurgarden, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

“The clubs were looking at pretty good times ahead, where we are getting in more money and we could attract better players. Swedish football was on the rise … hopefully as soon as this storm passes, we can get going again.”

Walker said Djurgarden was actually in good shape to withstand the initial brunt of this crisis, because of last year’s title triumph and having sold captain Marcus Danielson to Chinese club Dalian for a reported fee of more than 50 million kronor ($4.8 million) in February.

Indeed, the biggest blow to the Stockholm-based club might come in a sporting sense. Djurgarden, domestic champion for the first time since 2005 after beating Malmo and Hammarby to the title

They were supposed to be competing in the Champions League qualifying rounds this summer for the chance to reach the glamorous and lucrative group stage, thereby earning a minimum 165 million kronor ($16.2 million) plus a share of TV money. Now there’s uncertainty when those matches will take place.

For Djurgarden’s rivals across Sweden, the pain is very much financial.

Elfsborg’s players and coaches have had to take pay cuts. AIK, IFK Gothenburg, Ostersund, Orebro, Hacken, Kalmar and IFK Norrkoping have implemented short-term leave while Malmo has laid off staff.

All this at a time when Swedish clubs should really be feeling the rewards of the first year of a six-year TV deal with Discovery-owned Eurosport, reportedly worth 540 million kronor ($52 million) per year – supposedly doubling the amount clubs were bringing in from the last broadcast deal.

Now, the clubs are getting advance payment of this sponsorship money just to survive during what Swedish Elite Football – the body that oversees the top divisions – has described as an “extraordinary and difficult situation.”

Azelius has calculated that even if the season begins in June, Helsingborg will still have lost 17 million kronor ($1.6 million) of equity and therefore have gone back into the red. Having that debt, in turn, leaves the club in danger of losing its elite license to play in Allsvenskan.

“Many clubs are on their knees,” said Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist, a defender for Helsingborg, “waiting for news from various quarters about what help they can get.”

Sweden might be in a better position to restart than other countries in Europe, even if that means playing in empty stadiums to begin with.

On the continent and beyond, so much so that clubs can now hold training matches – provided the number of people attending does not exceed 50.

Walker said he and his teammates have been back in training since Monday, making sure they are “well-prepared for when the season does kick back in.”

A June start will necessitate the season running into December for the first time, by which time many parts of Sweden – like Ostersund, the northernmost team in Allsvenskan – are usually under snow. The fact that many teams have synthetic pitches because of the country’s climate could be a savior in that regard, while Djurgarden’s Tele2 Arena has a sliding roof and can therefore stage games “indoors.”

Until then, players, clubs and fans can only wait, keeping their fingers crossed that play does resume on schedule.

“When this clears up,” said Walker, trying to stay positive, “there will be a massive demand to go to see sports live, to go out and get back our normal routines.

“You just see the emptiness without sports. It’s unbelievable.”

Serie A: Juve buys $40M Kulusevski, Milan introduces Zlatan

Two Swedish stars find new Serie A clubs
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Two of Italy’s most celebrated sides unveiled significant Swedish additions on Thursday, one signing half the age of the other.

Juventus purchased 19-year-old Dejan Kulusevski from Atalanta for $40 million on Thursday, while AC Milan introduced Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the legendary Swede passed his medical.

Kulusevski has one cap for Sweden. Ibrahimovic? 116 caps and a national record 62 goals.

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Juve will allow their teen Swede to continue his loan at Parma, where he’s scored four times with seven assists in 17 Serie A appearances this season. He’s committed to The Old Lady through 2023/24.

The winger has represented Sweden at nearly every level, rising from the U15 level all the way to his first senior team cap in November.

Only Lazio’s Luis Alberto has more league assists than Kulusevski, who is rated 18th in Serie A by WhoScored and 50th by SofaScore. The latter site says his 35 successful dribbles are tired for fifth in the league.

As for Zlatan, he’s passed his medical to rejoin AC Milan after leaving the club in 2012 to join Paris Saint-Germain.

The move, announced late last month, gives Milan much-needed center forward reinforcements. Star striker Krzysztof Piatek has just four goals in 17 league matches this season.

Ibrahimovic will wear No. 21 when he makes his Milan debut. The side restarts Serie A play on Monday morning at Sampdoria.