AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has explained the circumstances of his infamous on-pitch argument with former Inter striker Romelu Lukaku.
Speaking to Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published in today’s print edition, the Swede explained that the altercation had stemmed from tension between Lukaku and some of his Rossoneri teammates.
Ibrahimovic was sent off during the second half of the Milan derby quarter-final of the Coppa Italia earlier this year, with a second yellow seeing him given his marching orders.
The second booking was fairly innocuous, but the first one made for an iconic moment in the recent history of the derby, with the 40-year-old going head to head in an obviously heated argument with then-Nerazzurri striker Lukaku.
As the Rossoneri striker explains, he had stepped in to defend some of his teammates as part of an incident already going on on the pitch, which led to an argument that got out of hand between himself and Lukaku.
“He was arguing with Romagnoli first, then with Saelemaekers,” the Swede stated. “I intervened to defend my teammates, and Lukaku attacked me on a personal level. I was a bit shocked.”
“Yet we had been teammates at Manchester United,” he went on. “I tried to make a bet with him on some of his poor first touches there, just as a way to improve him [laughs]. Anyway, he didn’t accept the bet.”
The Swede explained that “Lukaku has a big ego, he is fully convinced that he is a top player, and he is really strong.”
“But I grew up in the Malmo ghetto,” he went on, “and when someone comes up and tries to step to me, I put him in his place.”
“So I hit at a sore spot for him,” he continued, “the rituals that his mother did,” referencing something that the Belgian had been teased for while at Manchester United.
“And he has lost control,” Ibrahimovic went on. “I’m left with a lot of regret over it. We lost that derby, I was sent off. Then I got injured.”
The striker added that he still hopes to resolve his differences with the former Inter man, stating that “I hope to meet him soon.”
“Not on the street, there things which must be resolved on the pitch,” he added. “I don’t hate anyone, certainly not Lukaku. Hate weighs a lot on a person.”