Eight years ago Italian football giants AC Milan unveiled their star signing at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
A red carpet was unfurled across the pitch and mascots lined the sides to high five the new arrival. Former Italian prime minster and AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi was in attendance alongside the man behind the deal, Adriano Galliani.
The man of the moment emerged from the tunnel amidst an explosion of noise from the stands. ‘Zlatan’ reverberated around the stadium as he held a Milan jersey aloft.
Banners around the stadium issued praise and gratitude to the club’s president for signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, sending a clear message of intent and commitment to the football club.
Fast forward eight years and Milan are no longer in the hands of the Berlusconi family. Instead, the hedge fund Elliott Management has supplanted the Chinese ownership that had replaced Berlusconi, bringing with it an air of stability.
A quick reversal of the decision to ban Milan from the Europa League gave fans new hope on the transfer market, with former player and coach Leonardo returning to orchestrate proceedings.
In amongst the new optimism, Leonardo was among the first to voice the need for sensible spending in order to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play demands.
Back in 2010, the early expectations over successfully negotiating a move for Ibrahimovic were low. Galliani knew the Catalan giants would want compensation having spent €46 million plus Samuel Eto’o for the services of the Swede.
Negotiations for the former Inter and Juventus man would go on deep into the night, with Galliani encouraged by the suggestion that Ibrahimovic wanted out at Barcelona.
In a shrewd piece of business which to this day remains quite remarkable, the 28 year-old striker joined on an initial loan deal that would become a permanent transfer the following season for €24 million.
Milan knew they had landed a star player, and 56 goals in 85 appearances more than justified the price tag. His presence was felt not only on the pitch but in the dressing room, where he would galvanise the players and demand their very best.
His departure to Paris Saint-Germain for €20 million in 2012 left a big whole in the team, one that arguably has yet to be filled. However, eight years on from the announcement of Ibrahimovic’s arrival, Milan are hopeful their latest signing can follow in the footsteps of the Swede, and that is, of course, Gonzalo Higuain.
The Argentine arrives as part of a deal that has seen Leonardo Bonucci return to Juventus and Mattia Caldara move to Milan in a straight swap. The Rossoneri are thought to have paid €18m for the initial loan of Higuain, with a further €34m expected to complete the transfer next season.
Whilst this transfer has shades of the Ibrahimovic deal, ‘El Pipita‘ arriving is unlikely to generate the same level of enthusiasm as the move for Ibrahimovic. At 30 years old Higuain is considered to be at the very end of his prime, perhaps on the downward slope toward the twilight years of his career.
However, to suggest Higuain is over the hill is premature at this stage. With 282 career goals, 111 of which have come in Serie A, the former Real Madrid and Napoli man is a force to be reckoned with in the penalty area.
His 55 goals in two years for Juventus proves he is still at the top of his game, and his presence in the team could very well be enough to propel Milan into the Champions League places once again.
For Milan, a return to a competition they won on seven occasions will be crucial to their rebuilding process but beyond that, the likes of Juventus are also likely to benefit from having a more competitive Milan side.
In the same season that Juventus signed Higuain for €90m from Napoli, the Bianconeri reached the Champions League final, only to lose to Real Madrid. Last season, the Old Lady reached the quarter finals, losing over two legs to Los Blancos again.
Now, Juventus desperately need Serie A to offer more if they are to pursue European glory.
Complacency, over-confidence and laziness are potential pitfalls that Juventus have been guilty of in recent years, so a return to being fully tested on all fronts should be welcome news for Juventus fans.
With a goal-scoring battle between Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo on the cards, Italian football has a lot to offer this campaign and it promises to be an unforgettable season.