Milan (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic might hog the headlines at AC Milan but Ante Rebic has quietly carved out a key role for himself in the Rossoneri attack despite stiff competition from both veteran stars and up-and-coming talent.
Milan fans are preparing for their first home Champions League match in over seven years with Spanish champions Atletico Madrid visiting the San Siro on Tuesday night.
With ageing forwards Olivier Giroud and Ibrahimovic troubled by injuries and the coronavirus since the start of the season Croatia attacker Rebic has stepped into the breach up front, shifting away from his preferred position of winger to give Milan a point around which their younger attacking talent can buzz.
A scorer so far this season at Liverpool, where he gave Milan their half-time lead, and in a creditable 1-1 draw at Juventus, the 28-year-old also laid on Ibrahimovic’s only goal of the season in their 2-0 swatting of Lazio earlier this month.
His two goals add to the 11 he netted last season, all in the second half of the league campaign as Milan finished second behind champions Inter Milan, their highest league placing since 2012, when Ibrahimovic was in his first spell at the seven-time European champions.
This season Ibrahimovic has only featured in the 24 minutes he played against Lazio at the San Siro, and with Giroud first being hit with a bout of Covid-19 and then a back problem Rebic has happily taken on the mantle of two prolific international goalscorers.
On Saturday Ibrahimovic admitted “I am not Superman” in an interview with magazine Sportweek, and with the Swede turning 40 next weekend and his contract up at the end of the season Rebic knows there is plenty of space for him in coach Stefano Pioli’s plans for the season.
“I give him credit every day and after every match. He’s a player who can play in any role and can help us change matches,” said Pioli after the draw at Juve.
Low key performances in Milan’s recent wins over Venezia and Spezia, which temporarily earned them top spot in Serie A, should not distract from the fact that Rebic has become a big game performer that the Rossoneri can rely on.
He has scored in his last three matches against Juventus and has most impressed when it matters — such with his well-placed header at the Allianz Stadium which ensured Milan remain unbeaten in Italy.
Pioli subbed Rebic at half-time on Saturday against Spezia, saying afterwards that he was tired after featuring in every Milan match so far this season, alongside Giroud who was not fully match fit and struggled to make an impact on his return.
Milan will take to the field on Tuesday with memories of Liverpool’s aggression fresh in their minds and with plenty of vibrant attacking talent ready to pounce on an Atletico team who were beaten by lowly Alaves.
Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers, who are all 22 years old, are growing into match winners but Rebic is one of those without whom Pioli can rarely do.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $35/mo. for Sling Blue
- Watch Premier League, World Cup & MLS
- Includes USA, NBC, FOX, FS1 + more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Spurs midfielder Lo Celso joins Villarreal on loan
- African players in Europe: Dream home debut for Awoniyi
- Where to find Juventus vs. Sassuolo on US TV
- Where to find Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace on US TV
- Famous clubs battle for Champions League group slots
- Alaba free-kick gives Real Madrid win to start title defence
- Roma squeeze past Salernitana, Immobile fires Lazio to Bologna win
- Chippa inflict first loss on Orlando Pirates’ new ‘plumber’ coach
- Alexis Sanchez makes Marseille debut in Brest draw
- ‘Fair tackle’ as Tuchel insists no hard feelings after Conte clash