BARCELONA - Zlatan Ibrahimovic's
much-anticipated return to Barcelona was scuppered on Monday
when the AC Milan striker was injured in training and ruled out
of Tuesday's Champions League Group H opener at the Nou Camp.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said the absence of the
volatile Swede, who fell out with Barca coach Pep Guardiola and
was offloaded at the end of the 2009/10 season, was a severe
blow and he was as important to the Italian side as Argentine
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi was to Barca.
"Unfortunately this morning at the end of training Ibra felt
a twinge in his adductor and he has remained at home," Allegri
told a news conference, adding that the player was also doubtful
for the Serie A match at Napoli at the weekend.
"They [Ibrahimovic and Messi] are two champions with
different characteristics but within the two teams they have the
same value," he said.
"It's a big loss but we have to go out on to the pitch and
Both teams come into the match, on the opening matchday of
Europe's elite club competition, having drawn 2-2 in their
domestic leagues at the weekend.
Seven-times European champions Milan were held at home to
Lazio, while Barca, the four-times winners and holders,
squandered a two-goal lead at Real Sociedad.
Allegri is also without Italian striker Filippo Inzaghi and
Brazil forward Robinho, among others, and may opt to strengthen
the midfield and play with only one out-and-out forward in
Robinho's international team-mate Alexandre Pato.
The former Cagliari and Napoli midfielder has Antonio
Cassano available, the Italy forward who had a brief stint with
Barca's great Spanish rivals Real Madrid.
Although he has recently sounded a more conciliatory
note, Ibrahimovic criticised Guardiola after
the Catalan club decided to sell him, calling the former Barca
and Spain midfielder "the philosopher who has shattered my
"When I enter a room Guardiola leaves, I don't know if
he's scared of me or what," he told reporters last August.
Guardiola said on Monday that it
was a shame Ibrahimovic was unable to play as he always liked to
see the best players turning out to challenge his side and
entertain the fans.
"I don't care what he has said about me, my opinion
about him won't change," he told a later news conference.
"Before signing him I thought he was a fantastic player
and I still think he is a fantastic player.
"He was fundamental here and I know that he is happy at
Milan now and I am very pleased about that.
"I would have preferred to play against him because
it's always better when your opponent has all their best
"People come to the stadium to see the great players.
Ibrahimovic is one of them."
Milan's Netherlands midfielder Mark van Bommel appeared with
Allegri at the Italian club's news conference and was bombarded
with questions from the Spanish media about what they portrayed
as his brutal performance in last year's World Cup final.
The match was littered with fouls and yellow cards and Van
Bommel repeatedly clashed with Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta,
who scored the dramatic winning goal in extra-time.
"We were playing the final of the World Cup," the Dutchman,
a former Barca player, said.
"Everybody wants to win and of course you are fighting with
a player or several players and not just me.
"I don't have hard feelings against Iniesta. I played with
him for one year and after the match I forgot everything and I
think Iniesta and all the other Barca players like Xavi and [goalkeeper] Victor Valdes as well.
"That's football and tomorrow is another match. Maybe
tomorrow we see each other again on the pitch. I hope so."
Iniesta told an earlier news conference there had been some
strong challenges in the final in Johannesburg but he said it
was all in the past.
"In that sense I don't want to keep dwelling on the issue. I
don't think I have had any problem with any team mate I have
shared a dressing room with.
"I don't think anything will happen again tomorrow."
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