AC Milan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's injury can be a blessing in disguise for Milan

Max Cooper
Ibrahimovic will miss Euro 2020
Ibrahimovic will miss Euro 2020 / Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Generally speaking, the loss of your leading scorer for the final three games of the season while in the middle of a fierce Champions League qualification battle is not something you'd welcome upon your own team.

Many Milan supporters must have winced then, after they saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit the deck against Juventus on Sunday evening, fearing that the wheels might be falling off their top-four wagon once and for all.

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After the initial shock and panic however, a sense of calm will have washed across those Rossoneri supporters. In fact, their anxiety would have eased significantly only half an hour after his substitution, when his teammates decided to put on a show.

Milan hammered fallen champions Juventus 3-0 in Turin in their talisman's absence, and didn't appear to be negatively impacted by his omission from the pitch. The team looked much more fluid after his departure, with the reliable and similarly prolific Ante Rebic coming on and killing off I Bianconeri with a cracking finish from distance.

In the aftermath of the historic result, there was a sense that despite all the experience and clinical finishing that Ibrahimovic brings to Stefano Pioli's team, they are potentially better off without him. Not to mention, he has hardly been a provider of goals since the turn of the year.

Ibrahimovic hit 10 of his 15 league goals in the opening eight matches, but he has struggled to produce of late, having suffered a string of frustrating injuries. Not making the difference, then. In fairness though, his impact in Milan has been more than just his goals.

The Swede was the wise old head needed to steady the ship this time last year, providing the training wheels required to help this young, raw side maintain their balance.

But this group has grown up and grown out of their need for any stabilisers, and they showed their coming of age in the recent midweek clash with Torino. Milan put the struggling Bulls to the sword in Turin, hitting seven sumptuous goals, with five coming in a rampant second half display.

Previously benched Rebic scored a 13-minute hat-trick, while attacking midfielder Brahim Diaz thrived off of his service. The whole starting lineup was much more in sync than in recent weeks, with full-back Theo Hernandez back to his best, and Franck Kessie dominating the midfield scrap.

Stefano Piolo
Pioli's young side have grown up / Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

As far as acid tests go, this youthful team aced it. They now sit on the brink of Champions League football having swatted away two Turin challenges, and must now beat Cagliari and Atalanta to ensure their place at the top European table next year.

The absence of this season's top scorer will be a worry for some supporters, but not one they should lose any sleep over. They've managed without him when he was injured, and they've managed with him as a semi-fit hinderance.

Now he's ruled out for good and won't be forcing Pioli to play him through the pain barrier on one leg, Milan supporters can look forward to their young, nippy entertainers showing just how much they've grown without daddy by their side.

These birds are ready to fly the nest, so let them fly.