Zlatan Ibrahimovic's determination and ambition is having a positive impact on Milan, according to coach Stefano Pioli.

Milan have lost just once since Ibrahimovic made his return to the Rossoneri on a six-month contract in December.

A win at Fiorentina on Saturday would at least temporarily move Milan into the top six.

Ibrahimovic has scored three times in eight appearances so far in his second spell, but Pioli believes he has brought more than just goals.

"We are training well and that’s the truth, here you can breathe the positive air," said Pioli. "The priority is the present and you can only determine the future by thinking about the present.

"We don't think about stuff we can't impact; we don't have the time nor the energy to think about anything else.

"To have such an example of determination and ambition as Ibra has, it can do us good. If Ibra has become a champion and a unique player, it's because he is always hungry and wants to improve himself."

Though there has been speculation about Pioli being replaced at the end of the season, contrasting talk has suggested he could have his contract extended.

"It's pleasing to know that my job has been judged in a positive way," he added. "I feel that I’m the point of reference for the team.

"No coach is secure regardless of the results. In the end, the ones who make the decisions will decide.

"But I can't answer questions about my future on every press conference, let's focus on the present and see what will happen."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli claimed his players have started to embrace his football philosophy but was coy on their hopes of securing a Champions League place.

The Rossoneri moved up to eighth place in Serie A after a 1-0 win over Torino on Monday thanks to Croatia forward Ante Rebic's first-half strike.

It ensured Milan went unbeaten in nine home games in a row in all competitions for the first time since January 2017.

Pioli, 54, has regularly faced scrutiny over his position during a testing season, having replaced Marco Giampaolo in October last year.

"I am happy with both the result and the performance, we are forming an identity and a way of being on the pitch," Pioli said in his post-match news conference.

"And we still have 14 games to go up the table. We are always under scrutiny, but it is normal and also beautiful in certain respects. 

"You can't think about the future now, there is still so much to do, the future will be decided at the end of the season.

"I had asked for an important effort. We also suffered because of us because we could immediately end the game in the second half.

"I am satisfied with the team's recent performances, but it can be improved in the final phase of matches."

Pioli, however, played down his side's chances of making a sustained end-of-season surge to finish in Serie A's top four.

Milan are still 10 points behind Atalanta, who occupy the fourth Champions League spot after 24 matches of the season, with Pioli keen to keep expectation levels grounded.

"Can we dream of the Champions League? There is only room to prepare well for the next game in five days," Pioli added.

"It is a difficult match against a strong Fiorentina, then we will think about the league table from Saturday evening.

"Winning, gritting one's teeth and fighting is positive. We could certainly have finished the game earlier.

"Zlatan Ibrahimovic came out angry because he wanted to end the game, instead we missed some chances in transition and we had to suffer to the end."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the ideal character to lead Milan into a new era of success, according to former Rossoneri hero Cafu.

Brazilian Cafu says Ibrahimovic's age should not be a problem either, with the 38-year-old already making a big impact in his second spell at San Siro.

The mid-season arrival of Swedish striker Ibrahimovic has given Milan fresh impetus and results have picked up significantly.

Last weekend's 4-2 defeat to Inter was their first in nine matches in all competitions since the resumption of the campaign following the mid-season break.

Milan responded to that setback with a 1-1 draw with Juventus in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.

It promises to be a gradual process to bring the seven-time European champions into contention to add to their former glories, but Cafu sees Ibrahimovic's role as possibly vital to making that happen.

Speaking ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards, Cafu told Omnisport: "The impact is very great with the return of Ibra to Milan.

"We hope he can help Milan win big titles like we did in our day.

"He's a fantastic player, a sensational player."

Ibrahimovic won a Serie A title with Milan in 2010-11 and has also won league titles in Spain, France and The Netherlands. He lifted the EFL Cup and Europa League at Manchester United.

A couple of seasons with LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer do not appear to have affected his enthusiasm for a fresh European club adventure, and Cafu has no doubt the charismatic veteran has plenty to offer.

Two-time World Cup winner Cafu, who won Serie A and Champions League honours while playing for Milan in his mid-thirties, said: "Age does not matter.

"What matters is that he still wants to play, wants to grow and keep Milan great."

Stefano Pioli described mounting speculation over his future as Milan head coach as "normal" as he aims to end the season strongly despite rumours Andriy Shevchenko could replace him.

Milan have lost just one of their past nine games in all competitions, with the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in January having helped Pioli recover some of the ground lost in a dismal stretch either side of his October arrival in place of Marco Giampaolo.

But a run of two draws and a defeat in three games ahead of the visit of Torino in Serie A on Monday has returned the focus to Pioli's position.

Former Rossoneri and Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was also mentioned in reports discussing potential appointments in the coming months.

"I know very well what my role is and how we have been very good at not getting carried away by rumours," said Pioli. "We have to do this until the end.

"We are in a great club, it is normal for there to be some talk. We must be very focused on our work.

"There is a lot of season remaining to do well; 45 points are available.

"I am not worried about my future and I am not even thinking about it. I want to try together with the team to exploit this situation."

Pioli started Hakan Calhanoglu in support of Ibrahimovic in Milan's 1-1 Coppa Italia draw with Juventus on Thursday and in his side's 4-2 derby defeat to Inter before that.

And the Rossoneri boss backed his decision to play a lone striker, rather than pairing Ibrahimovic with another forward such as Ante Rebic or Rafael Leao.

"We must strengthen the positive feelings and bring back the same spirit of the last few matches," said Pioli as he looked forward to entertaining Torino at San Siro.

"All game systems are good if the characteristics of the players are suitable for that system.

"We have the characteristics to play with this formation. We see that the team feels these positions and is very balanced and compact, as well as being very dangerous and shooting on goal more than the opponents."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a "phenomenon" and will have the final say on whether to extend his stay at Milan, says director of sport Ricky Massara.

Veteran striker Ibrahimovic returned to the Rossoneri in January on a deal that runs until June with the option to extend his stay by a further 12 months.

Ibrahimovic, who won Serie A during his first stint with Milan, has scored three goals in six games across all competitions since re-joining and was in the starting line-up for Thursday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg against Juventus.

Massara hailed Ibrahimovic's quality and said the Swede will be the one to decide his future.

Speaking to Rai Sport, Massaro said: "It'll ultimately be up to him, how he feels and how long he wants to continue.

"He truly is a phenomenon, and we are very happy with his performance."

Milan are 10th in Serie A after 23 games, 10 points adrift of the top four but only two away from Hellas Verona in sixth.

The Coppa Italia semi-final between Milan and Juventus will pit two of the greatest goalscorers of the modern era against each other.

Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juve's Cristiano Ronaldo are set to renew acquaintances when San Siro plays host to Thursday's first leg.

Both Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo are in the latter stages of their careers, but the prospect of them sharing the pitch still adds an extra layer of intrigue to the occasion.

Here we look back at the previous meetings between two of world football's most feared finishers.

 

2009: Inter 0-0 Manchester United, Manchester United 2-0 Inter

Ronaldo got the better of Ibrahimovic and Inter in the last 16 of the Champions League as, after a goalless draw at San Siro in the first leg, the Portugal great headed United's second goal of the return to secure their progression.

2009: Barcelona 1-0 Real Madrid

Ibrahimovic left Inter for Barca at the end of the 2008-09 season, while Ronaldo made a then world-record move to Madrid following United's Champions League final loss to the Blaugrana. CR7 would again be frustrated by Barca as Ibrahimovic wrote his name into Clasico folklore with a superb far-post volley from Dani Alves' perfectly placed right-wing cross.

2010: Real Madrid 2-0 Milan, Milan 2-2 Real Madrid

Though Ibrahimovic lasted only one season at Camp Nou, he renewed acquaintances with Ronaldo in the Champions League group stages. Ronaldo set in motion a victory for Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu with a low free-kick from the edge of the area, but both players were held in check at San Siro in an entertaining draw.

2013: Portugal 1-0 Sweden, Sweden 2-3 Portugal

The second leg of the World Cup qualifying play-off between Sweden and Portugal proved unquestionably the best encounter featuring Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic so far, as they each delivered their best with a place in Brazil on the line. 

Ronaldo earned Portugal a 1-0 advantage in the first leg, and looked to have given them complete command of the tie five minutes into the second half in Solna. Ibrahimovic, though, turned the tie around with a headed equaliser followed by a rasping free-kick, only for Ronaldo to have the final say by superbly finishing off a counter and then emphatically converting from Joao Moutinho's throughball.

2015: Paris Saint-Germain 0-0 Real Madrid, Real Madrid 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain

The most recent meetings between the two featured no such fireworks as Madrid and PSG largely cancelled each other out across two Champions League group stage encounters, with Nacho scoring the goal that ultimately proved decisive in Los Blancos topping the group.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic said Milan "stopped playing" as the star striker lamented the Rossoneri's collapse after they surrendered a two-goal lead against city rivals Inter in a thrilling Derby della Madonnina.

Milan's 2-0 half-time lead was wiped out in a matter of minutes by Serie A title hopefuls Inter, who turned the derby on its head with four unanswered goals to sensationally win 4-2 at San Siro on Sunday.

Ibrahimovic provided the assist for Ante Rebic's 40th-minute opener before becoming the oldest Serie A goalscorer in Milan derby history in first-half stoppage time.

Milan, however, were unable to hold on against Inter – who produced a stunning comeback to leapfrog defending champions Juve atop the table.

"It's difficult to explain what happened," the 38-year-old Ibrahimovic told Sky Sport Italia after scoring his third goal since returning to Milan in January.

"At half-time we told ourselves, the first 15 minutes going back out there will be crucial, and in that 15-minute spell we conceded two goals.

"We stopped playing, the team stopped believing, we stopped pressing, didn't pass it around enough. From the equaliser onwards, everything collapsed.

"I think a lot of it is down to experience, because you must know how to control a game at 2-0 up, not just winning at the end.

"It's strange, because our first half was practically perfect. I expected more from Inter and the first-half performance did not look like a team worthy of second place. They did after the break."

Inter are ahead of Juve on goal difference after 23 games, while Milan are 10th and 10 points adrift of the Champions League places.

Antonio Conte admitted Inter were at risk of "a hammering" before they came from two goals down to beat Milan 4-2 in the Derby della Madonnina and go top of the Serie A table.

Goals from Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic put Milan two ahead at half-time, but quickfire strikes from Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino levelled the contest inside eight minutes of the restart.

Stefan de Vrij gave Inter the lead before Romelu Lukaku capped an unforgettable evening for the Nerazzurri with a stoppage-time goal, and Conte was full of praise for his gutsy side's comeback.

"It was a special night, that's for sure," Conte told Sky Sport Italia. "The first half saw us in real difficulty, perhaps more than we've ever been this season, and there was the risk of a hammering.

"Instead, we did well to get the balance back, to understand where we had to improve, to have faith in what we were doing and the credit goes to these lads.

"Aside from the result, I am happy to see them resist under blows and turn it around, as that means they are preparing for something truly important.

"It's still very early to talk about something we can for now dream of. We can have a dream."

Despite Inter's second-half transformation, Conte had little to say about his half-time team-talk and instead claimed his share of responsibility for a calamitous first-half display.

Inter face Napoli in their Coppa Italia semi-final first leg on Wednesday before taking on fellow title-chasers Lazio in Serie A on Sunday, and Conte looked ahead to a crucial run of games.

"It's going to be a very intense period for us coming up and, after that, I think we'll have a better idea of our potential and our real capabilities," said the Inter boss.

"We can't achieve everything from one day to the next, but we are building. These lads proved they have great strength and guts today.

"I didn't need to talk much at half-time. I think in difficult situations, you have to be very clear and take responsibility. I had a large share of the responsibility for the fact we were losing 2-0 at half-time.

"We stayed together, from start to finish, and found our way out of a tough situation. We have to keep this evening in mind, as it will help us be a team in future and deal with similar difficulties."

When the Inter and Milan starting XIs lined up before a cacophonous San Siro on Sunday, there were all the usual sights.

Fierce, steely stares, necks being flexed, legs shaken out. Big-match anxiety writ large.

Then there was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, turning around wide-eyed to survey the scene and wearing a big grin.

Perhaps he knew all along. Or thought he did.

Ibrahimovic's return to this fixture was a blessing for Milan, largely because it diverted the attention away from the gulf that has opened up between themselves and their great rivals since Antonio Conte took charge of the Nerazzurri.

"He is a champion who gives Milan quality and charisma," Conte said of Ibrahimovic in the build-up, although even in acknowledging this he could scarcely have envisaged the first-half evisceration his title-aspirants would endure, before turning the tables to top the table with a 4-2 derby win for the ages.

Now 38, Ibrahimovic's frequent aggrandisement – which always seemed to pinball between self-deprecation and a yawing lack of self-awareness – has come to grate as much as it entertains.

It was easy to conclude a Milan marooned in mismanagement and mediocrity had bought into the myth rather than the aging man the wrong side of major knee surgery when they offered him a route back from his expected retirement home in Major League Soccer.

The Rossoneri entered Sunday's game seven places and 19 points shy of Inter, but yet to taste defeat in the seven matches since Ibrahimovic's second debut.

In this Derby della Madonnina – a fixture where he, of course, knows both sides of the divide – he was Milan's talisman.

Stefano Pioli's team drove forward from kick-off and there were 67 seconds on the clock when Ibrahimovic lashed over on the volley from Samu Castillejo's cross.

The most striking element of the veteran's early contribution was his capacity to elevate those around him. Castillejo always had someone to hit from the right flank and was a constant threat, while Ante Rebic looked more like the player from Croatia's run to the 2018 World Cup final as opposed to the beleaguered individual Milan were recently hoping to send packing back to Eintracht Frankfurt.

The twinkle-toed Hakan Calhanoglu was the pick of the bunch, rifling against the post after nine minutes and popping up with palpable menace across the final third thereafter, never far away from a shrewd pass or lay-off to Ibrahimovic.

Inter were struggling to get out of their own half and, in line with trepidation painted across a touchline-prowling Conte, they fell behind.

Of course Ibrahimovic was involved, muscling above Diego Godin to knock down Castillejo's cross for Rebic to scramble past a bizarrely hesitant Samir Handanovic.

A VAR review did not spare Godin, the sort of reprieve it is hard to imagine would sit well with the gloriously grizzled centre-back. In mano-e-mano combat he simply came off second best to an opponent on a mission.

If Ibrahimovic's role in the opener was about brute strength, for number two he resorted to stealth, stealing into space at the far post as Milan Skriniar's gaze was diverted to the ball. Soon enough it was behind him and being nodded into the net by the man of the moment. Arms aloft, script fulfilled.

Only Conte and his warriors in blue and black, with the blood of an undulating Scudetto race in their nostrils, had other ideas.

Antonio Candreva thumped goalwards in the 51st minute. Blocked. Marcelo Brozovic thumped harder. 2-1.

In a flash, it was all square as a darting Alexis Sanchez was played onside by Andrea Conti's heal and he cut back for Matias Vecino to score.

Godin supplied the pass to Sanchez and the sense of Inter's centre-backs being freed from their earlier Ibrahimovic ordeal was underlined by Stefan de Vrij heading home, putting them on course for the sweetest of victories.

Ibrahimovic thundered a long-range free-kick just wide, crashing it into the advertising hoardings with the same force Milan's earlier dreams met reality, and a towering header hit the post.

Having just about negotiated the man with the occasional God complex, Conte brought on Victor Moses to set up a fourth for the prolific Romelu Lukaku. It's 54 points apiece with Juventus at the summit and Inter, with goal difference in their favour, might just have taken a significant step towards their promised land.

Inter came from two goals down to earn a famous 4-2 victory over Milan in a gripping Derby della Madonnina that sent the Nerazzurri top of Serie A.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to haunt his former club with a goal and an assist for Ante Rebic as Milan raced ahead before half-time, but the 38-year-old striker could not maintain his unbeaten run since returning to San Siro in January.

The Rossoneri's hopes of causing an upset faded in the space of two second-half minutes that saw Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino plunder quickfire goals to get Inter back on level terms.

Antonio Conte's men took the lead 20 minutes from time through Stefan de Vrij's superbly executed header and Romelu Lukaku scored in second-half stoppage time to make sure his side leapfrogged Lazio and Juventus into top spot.

Antonio Conte predicted the Milan derby will stoke strong emotions for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and said he has "great respect" for the Rossoneri striker.

Milan are unbeaten in five Serie A games since Ibrahimovic arrived on a free transfer from LA Galaxy in January, the 38-year-old scoring once in the league and once in the Coppa Italia.

After missing Milan's 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona due to an illness, Ibrahimovic is expected to be available for selection on Sunday.

Stefano Pioli's men trail Inter by 19 points ahead of the Derby della Madonnina but Inter boss Conte said Ibrahimovic's uplifting effect on his team-mates would make for a better game at San Siro.

"I think it's nice to see all the players available in the most important games," Conte told reporters. "The spectacle benefits.

"He is a champion who gives Milan quality and charisma.

"I have great respect for Ibra, he is a former Inter player and I think that for him, in terms of emotions, it will be a strong game."

Conte was asked about the fitness of Samir Handanovic, after the Nerazzurri goalkeeper suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand, but gave little away.

"The medical staff can speak about specific situations - they are much more competent than I am," he replied.

He spoke more positively about Christian Eriksen's progress, the midfielder having played twice since joining Inter from Tottenham, in a 2-0 Serie A win at Udinese and a 2-1 Coppa Italia victory over Fiorentina.

Asked how long the 27-year-old needs to be 100 per cent fit, Conte said: "I hope not so much. He played part of the match against Fiorentina and started in Udine.

"He needs the right time to learn my ideas but he is a very intelligent boy. He quickly understands our game principles and I'm happy for that.

"Eriksen is a player who arrived at Inter with precise characteristics. We bought him for a certain way of playing.

"Let's not forget that in Italy there is much more tactical emphasis and more is asked than abroad. Often they are not very fixated on some situations: it is right that he has his time to get into his idea of ​​the game."

Milan coach Stefano Pioli is hopeful Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be fit to face Inter in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday.

Veteran striker Ibrahimovic sat out last weekend's 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona through illness and has spent this week undertaking an individual training programme.

Milan are unbeaten in seven matches since re-signing the 38-year-old and he could return to take on Scudetto-chasing Inter at San Siro.

"Ibrahimovic has been doing a specifically planned training regime aimed at getting him back for [Saturday's] training session. If he takes that step he will be available," said Pioli.

"We have done everything to get him back from flu and calf fatigue. That path has been the right one but now he has to complete training with the team."

Inter sit second in Serie A, three points adrift of leaders Juventus, and have not lost a domestic match since going down to the Bianconeri on October 6.

With Milan sitting ninth and needing a strong finish to the season if they are to have any chance of making the top four, Pioli called on his team to use Ibrahimovic's famous confidence and desire as inspiration.

"I don't know what the distance is between us and them, but I know we will be facing a team that hasn't lost for a long time," said the Milan boss. "We must all have the face of Ibra: fired up and ready to play.

"We respect our opponents, they are a strong side in every department, compact and technical. It will be a difficult game but we must have conviction and positivity.

"You have to prove you have clear ideas and that you prepared for the game well. You have to carry it on for 90 minutes. There will be difficulties but well-defined concepts and ideas must keep you as a team from start to finish.

"We have to do this [on Sunday] and for the rest of the season. An important period begins tomorrow."

A season is a long time in football.

Rewind to 2018-19 and Inter pipped Milan to the fourth and final Champions League spot by a solitary point.

Fast forward to this season and Milan find themselves ninth and 19 points adrift of their title-chasing Serie A neighbours in February.

As Milan and Inter prepare for Sunday's latest instalment of the Derby della Madonnina, we look at why the Rossoneri have fallen so far behind the Nerazzurri this term.

 

COACHING APPOINTMENTS

Inter brought in a winner. The Suning Holdings Group were determined to sign former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and they got their man. 

Milan were linked to Conte, but Paolo Maldini and the red half of the city were never able to provide the funds necessary for his arrival. Instead, Milan turned to Marco Giampaolo as the replacement for Gennaro Gattuso. There were high hopes for Giampaolo, given the brand of football on show during his time at Sampdoria. However, cracks quickly appeared and he was sacked after just seven games, which included a 2-0 loss to Inter.

That led to Stefano Pioli. An unpopular choice having previously coached Inter, Maldini and the board found themselves under pressure. Despite hardly being an exciting appointment following spells at Fiorentina, Lazio, Bologna and Palermo, Pioli has overseen some improvement. Milan have gone seven games without defeat, though the jury is still out.

 

SIGNINGS

Finances help but recruitment could not be further apart. Boosted by the income of Champions League football and the demands of Conte, Inter have splashed the cash in 2019-20. It took a club-record transfer to prise Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United. Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Christian Eriksen, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Ashley Young, Victor Moses and Cristiano Biraghi have all joined the blue half of Milan and made impacts. Valentino Lazaro also arrived but has since moved to Newcastle United on loan.

The additions of Gonzalo Higuain and Leonardo Bonucci were supposed to awaken sleeping giants Milan in 2017, helping to restore their glory days, but the transfer market has not been kind to the Rossoneri. Milan's recent woes can be traced back to the signing of Krzysztof Piatek last term. The Poland striker had taken Italy by storm just six months into his move to Genoa with 19 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions. It prompted Milan to spend big and while there were glimpses of his talent, Piatek's January switch to Hertha Berlin proves they were hasty in their decision to entrust him with the iconic number nine shirt.

The purchase of Theo Hernandez has proven to be a bargain, while Rafael Leao and Ismael Bennacer are some of Maldini and Zvonimir Boban's better deals when you compare them to the likes of Rade Krunic, Leo Duarte and Ante Rebic – who up until the turn of the year was virtually non-existent.

Then there is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His return in January raised some eyebrows, given his age at 38, but the superstar striker has provided leadership and character to the dressing room, helping the team on a seven-match unbeaten run. A rare tick for Milan in recent transfer windows.

 

OFF THE FIELD

Inter are a club thriving on and off the pitch. Conte and CEO Giuseppe Marotta – his trusted friend at Juventus – have the Nerazzurri dreaming of the Scudetto. Milan, on the other hand, could not be further away from ending a title drought dating back to 2011.

A lot of Milan's problems stem from ownership and numerous changes at the top. The last time Milan claimed the Scudetto, Silvio Berlusconi was in charge and Ibrahimovic was playing alongside Ronaldinho, Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta. Since then, a Chinese consortium pledged to lead Milan back to the promised land in 2017. It turned out the new owners did not have the funds required and it led to Elliott Management taking over. The change in ownership sparked upheaval – CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli were replaced, while Leonardo came and went.

While doubts remain over Maldini and Boban, Milan need a period of stability – especially off the field – to help get back to challenging for domestic and European honours.

Milan will be forever grateful to Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he had "nothing to prove" and "everything to lose" by returning to the struggling Serie A giants, according to chief football officer Zvonimir Boban.

Ibrahimovic re-joined Milan last month after leaving the Rossoneri in 2012, and the 38-year-old striker has made an immediate impact at San Siro.

Since arriving on a free transfer from MLS outfit LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic has lifted the spirit in the dressing room and scored twice in five appearances.

Milan have not lost since Ibrahimovic's comeback – a run of seven matches – and Boban praised the former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain star.

"Ibra is a very charismatic player and he is super professional," said Boban, whose Milan are eighth in Serie A. 

"He joined the team with a very humble approach despite he is a player with a great strength under many aspects.

"He had a real impact on his young team-mates and his arrival was a huge boost to their confidence. It was not easy, but he just found the perfect way to understand the delicate moment our players were going through.

"We will be grateful to him for this forever because he had nothing to prove coming to Milan and everything to lose."

Gianluigi Donnarumma also continues to play a key role for Milan this season – the Italy international goalkeeper an ever-present in 2019-20 with eight clean sheets.

Former Milan keeper Dida, who won two Champions League titles and the Serie A among other honours during his time with the club, lauded the 20-year-old star.

"Donnarumma doesn't need any advice," Dida said. "He grown up in the last year and now he is very mature for his age. In the past he had some misunderstanding with Milan fans but now you can see he is very focused and is doing great things for Milan.

"He made some great saves this season, he always approach the game with the right attitude. You can see he is matured. He just need to keep working as he is doing."

Milan lack the personality required to play for the club when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is absent, according to Fabio Capello.

Ibrahimovic was ruled out of the Serie A meeting with Hellas Verona on Sunday due to illness and Milan were held to a 1-1 draw at San Siro.

Verona played the last 22 minutes with 10 men after Sofyan Amrabat was shown a red card following a VAR review of his lunge on Samu Castillejo, but the Rossoneri were unable to score a winner.

Capello - who won the Scudetto with the club as a player in 1979 and in the 1990s coached them to four league titles and Champions League success - feels Ibrahimovic is the only player with sufficient character for the club.

"He is an important player, the point of reference for the whole team. When he's there, two defenders are focused on him," he told Radio Anch'Io Sport.

"I saw a timid Milan again at San Siro. When Ibrahimovic is there instead, he does different things.

"But it's not [coach Stefano] Pioli's fault. The players go out with fear and this means they don't have the personality to play for Milan."

Juventus have a three-point lead over Inter at the summit as they seek to win Serie A for the ninth straight season.

Lazio are two points behind Inter, but Capello believes they lack the depth required to compete with Juve and Inter in the long term.

"Inter have added many players to the squad who do not make a difference like the two strikers, but who can help Conte keep things fresh until the end of the season," he said.

"Lazio don't have that. They are two teams that want to try to win and this is a very important thing. Juventus must be very careful."

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