AC Milan’s last starting Xl with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2012 compared to 2020

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his first Serie A goal back at Milan at the weekend – but he has joined a vastly different club to the one which he left.

The striker has rejoined the Rossoneri on a six-month deal and marked his first league start with a goal in their 2-0 win over Cagliari.

His last competitive start for Milan came in a 2-1 win against Novara in the final game of the 2011-12 season, and we’ve looked back at the starting XI that day to see how it has evolved over the past eight years.

Marco Amelia – Gianluigi Donnarumma

Christian Abbiati was Milan’s first choice goalkeeper in 2011-12, but Amelia was given a rare start as Juventus had already won the league title.

The Italian made just 41 appearances for the club in four years and later spent a forgotten season at Chelsea before retiring in 2017.

The emergence of Donnarumma has been one of the few bright spots for Milan over the last few years as the goalkeeper made his debut at 16.

He immediately established himself ahead of ex-Real Madrid man Diego Lopez and has been Milan’s No.1 ever since, making 182 appearances for his boyhood club.

Gianluca Zambrotta – Davide Calabria

This game also proved to be Zambrota’s last appearance for Milan after four years at the San Siro before moving to hometown club Chiasso.

The legendary full-back won three Serie A titles during his career and was also a key member of the Italy squad that won the 2006 World Cup.

Ibrahimovic will now be playing alongside a much younger right-back in 23-year-old Davide Calabria, who has progressed through Milan’s youth academy and is nearing a century of appearances for the club.

Philippe Mexes – Mateo Musacchio

Milan have possessed some of the best defenders in the world from Franco Baresi to Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta, but they have unsurprisingly struggled to replace such legendary centre-backs.

Mexes spent five years at the San Siro, but his time at the club is best remembered for his short temper and tendency to score unbelievable goals.

Musacchio moved to Milan in 2017 from Villarreal and has been a regular for the Rossoneri ever since.

Mario Yepes – Alessio Romagnoli

Yepes came to prominence after spending six seasons in France with Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain.

The defender joined Milan in 2010 but struggled for guaranteed playing time due to the form of Thiago Silva before leaving the club in 2013.

In contrast, Romagnoli has established himself as one of the most important players at Milan since signing from Roma in 2015 and was named as their captain following Leonardo Bonucci’s return to Juventus in 2018.

The 25-year-old has recently been linked with moves to Barcelona and Juventus but has re-affirmed his commitment to Milan.

“It’s an honour to be Milan captain and these are rumours I haven’t even heard of,” he said. “I’m happy at Milan, I’m happy in Milan and as long as I’m happy, I want to stay here.”

Djamel Mesbah – Theo Hernandez

Mesbah was another Milan defender who was given a rare start in the final game against Novara. The left-back joined from Leece in January 2012 but was used sparingly by Milan before being sold to Parma a year later.

Hernandez came through the ranks at Atletico Madrid before controversially joining rivals Real Madrid in 2017. However, the defender failed to impress at the Bernabeu and was sold to Milan last summer.

“I became known as a bad boy,” Hernandez told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I was insulted and criticised a lot at Real Madrid. I did some stupid things, but I have matured as a person.”

Alberto Aquilani – Samu Castillejo

Aquilani is widely regarded as one of the worst signings in Liverpool’s history after the midfielder flopped in an ill-fated spell at Anfield.

The midfielder spent 2011-12 on loan at Milan but struggled to make an impact at the San Siro, and the club opted against signing him on a permanent deal.

Castillejo joined Milan from Villarreal in 2018, with Carlos Bacca moving in the opposite direction. The winger has failed to secure a regular spot in Milan’s starting XI, making just nine league appearances this season.

Gennaro Gattuso – Franck Kessie

Gattuso epitomised the image of the footballing hardman during his time with Milan, famously/bravely squaring up to then Tottenham assistant manager Joe Jordan in 2011.

He won two Champions Leagues during his time as a player at the San Siro and his partnership with Andrea Pirlo was pivotal in the success of both Milan and Italy.

The 42-year-old returned to Milan as their manager in 2017 but resigned last year and is currently in charge of Napoli.

Kessie has been a constant fixture in Milan’s midfield since signing from Atalanta in 2017, and the 23-year-old has recently rubbished links to Wolves and West Ham.

“If I wanted to leave, I would have already done it. I want to stay here for many years, a team that I’ve been supporting since I was a child,” he told Sport Mediaset.

“For me it’s a dream come true and I’ll always give my best for these colours.”

Clarence Seedorf – Ismael Bennacer

Seedorf is regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation but was coming to the end of his career by 2012 and this was his last appearance for the Rossoneri.

The 43-year-old joined Milan in 2002 and went on to make more than 400 appearances for the club, helping them win two Serie A and two Champions League titles.

After starting his career with French club Arles, Bennacer signed for Arsenal in 2015 but made just one appearance for the Gunners before joining Empoli.

His performances saw him earn a reputation as one of the most promising young midfielders in Europe, earning a move to Milan in 2019.

Kevin-Prince Boateng – Hakan Calhanoglu

Boateng reignited his career at Portsmouth under Harry Redknapp and then played a key role in Milan’s 2010-11 Serie A title success after moving to Italy.

Despite his obvious talent, the midfielder failed to live up to his potential and has played for 11 different clubs throughout his career.

“I’ll go back and say: I didn’t treat football as a job,” he told La Repubblica. “I was an idiot. I had talent, but I trained the bare minimum, an hour on the field. I was the last to arrive and the first to leave. I’d be out with friends.”

Calhanoglu is regarded as one of football’s best free-kick specialists, and the midfielder became Milan’s new No.10 in 2017.

However, he has struggled to maintain his best form in Italy and had recently been linked with a move to Arsenal.

Antonio Cassano – Rafael Leao

Cassano was one of football’s most eccentric characters and possible one of the few players to make Ibrahimovic appear down-to-earth.

The forward was incredibly talented but often made headlines for his actions off the pitch rather than on it, and he only scored eight goals in 18 months for Milan.

Leao emerged as one of the brightest prospects in French football in 2018-19, excelling for a Lille side that came second in Ligue 1.

Milan then spent £30million to bring the 20-year-old to the San Siro last summer, but he has managed just two league goals to date.

READ: A celebration of Antonio Cassano’s sex-&-croissants-fuelled Real Madrid career

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic was one of the best strikers in the world during his first spell at AC Milan, winning Serie A in 2010-11 and scoring 42 league goals in 61 appearances.

The Sweden icon has been forced to adapt his game over the last eight years but nobody could have predicted that he’d still be this good at 38.

“I know what I have to do. Zlatan is still here,” he said on his return to the club. “I’ve been looking for one final rush of adrenaline to give it my all. I didn’t come here to be a Rossoneri mascot. I’ve never lost my passion.”

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