The coach described his veteran forward as a “champion” after he ended the season in fine fashion on Saturday
Ibrahimovic – aged 38 years and 302 days – became the oldest player to score 10-plus goals in a Serie A season with his strike against Cagliari in Saturday’s 2019-20 finale at San Siro.
Pioli heaped praise on the evergreen veteran striker, telling MilanTV: “Don’t tell him he’s the oldest to have scored 10 goals in Serie A.
“He is a champion in everything he does, he has made a very important contribution. Our improvements have gone hand in hand, individually and collectively.
“The boys will have a well-deserved rest but soon they will have to resume training at home as during the lockdown.”
“We have built something this season and it should be given consistency. So next season will be trying to build on what we’ve already done,” Milan director Paolo Maldini told Sky Sport Italia pre-game.
“In all honesty, Zlatan is part of this project. It won’t be an easy negotiation, but we fully intend to keep him with us. We have many young players who can grow exponentially with Ibra by their side.
“We might have different ways of achieving our objectives, but we need the same general vision of where we want to end up, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) August 1, 2020
Milan – inspired by Ibrahimovic – have been rejuvenated since the restart, with Ragnar Klavan’s own goal and Samu Castillejo’s effort capping a sixth-placed finish for Pioli’s side.
In-form Milan (35) have scored the most goals in Europe’s top-five league since Serie A resumed in June following the coronavirus-enforced break, while only Real Madrid (31) have gained more points than the Italian powerhouse (30) in those top-five leagues over the same period – a run that led to being retained as coach.
Pioli, whose team ended the campaign in the midst of a 12-game unbeaten run in the league, added: “The boys were exceptional, a fantastic return with excellent performances. Beyond the positive results, it was important to create a mentality, it must be a basis on which to build an even more satisfying future.
“We have confidence and conviction, we also need quality. It means that we have these values. We close the season with satisfaction. We hoped we would not have to do the playoffs but we will face them with conviction. We need to close the gap with the top teams.”