Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeps himself busy in Sweden, fueling talks that he will stay

STOCKHOLM: AC Milan expected the late return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a long and productive way coronavirus exile in Sweden that has fueled speculation in his native country that his biggest star would return home forever.

While most of his AC Milan teammates have had to sit idle due to the pandemic, Ibrahimovic was busy training in Sweden with players at Hammarby, a first-division club of which he owns.

Unlike much of the rest of Europe, where containment has limited or impeded athlete training, restrictions on containing Covid-19 in Sweden have been more flexible.

The start of the Swedish league, scheduled for April 4, has been postponed, but training has continued as long as players avoid close contact, unlike in Italy, where individual training only resumed this week.

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On Tuesday, only Ibrahimovic and Ivory Coast Forward Franck Kessie was absent at the Milanello center for medical examinations that AC Milan had asked the players to perform, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

But on Friday morning, the same newspaper reported that the Swede was expected later in the day.

In Sweden, reports of Ibrahimovic's immediate intentions are conflicting. There have been reports that he was expecting a clearer picture of how training and Series A will resume. On the other hand, some media say he is ready to leave for Italy, where Series A hopes to resume in June.

If we start on May 4th, I will be back on May 3rd. If we start on May 9, I will arrive on May 8, the player said according to Swedish public television in April.

The Italian government has yet to agree on a plan for the clubs to resume group training on May 18, and this week Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora warned that it was impossible to set a definitive date for Series A to restart.

In Stockholm, life has been almost normal for the former Swedish international, who returned home with his family after the break in the Italian championship.

If you look at Zlatan, it's obvious that he has completely different chances of staying in shape compared to the Serie A players who are still in Italy, said Martin Petersson, a football privately owned TV4 journalist, told AFP.

His presence has fueled the idea that the pandemic will precipitate Ibrahimovic's return to the Swedish league, where it all started for him 20 years ago in Malmo.

Ibrahimovic's contract, signed with Milan in December after a two-year season in the United States with LA Galaxy , expires at the end of the season.

In Swedish football , many believe the pony-tailed giant will return to his homeland.

It appears that Hammarby as an option in the future is not completely off the scene, Petersson said. He still lacks a trophy, apart from Champions League , and that is the one given to the Swedish champions. Maybe that is tempting for him?

In an interview with Dplay, an online video service, Ibrahimovic said in early spring that he had a contract with Milan and (would wait and see) how it ends.

"I said: 'I want to play football for as long as I can, you never know what might happen'."

He added that he has also thought about what he will do in football when he stops playing.

"I want to learn something new about football , from a different perspective. I'll be contributing on the sidelines, not on the pitch," he told the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

Hammarby President Richard von Yxkull told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper not to rule anything out and emphasized that it is not the club's decision.

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