x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ibrahimovic's temper springs into action around this time of the season

This pattern only invites the idea, widely held outside Serie A, that the Swede does not take pressure.

Strange things happen to Zlatan Ibrahimovic around this time of year. If he doesn't go missing in front of goal, he loses his head. In fact, the Swede lost more than his temper in getting sent off for a sly thump in the face of Napoli's Salvatore Aronica on Sunday.

He missed the chance to keep pace with Udinese's Antonio Di Natale at the top of Serie A's goalscoring charts. He lost the chance to help AC Milan win the match in the last quarter, when, at 0-0, they were suddenly obliged to manage with 10 men.

Ibrahimovic, though available for last night's Coppa Italia meeting with Juventus, has picked up a three-match ban in Serie A as a result, which if Milan's appeal fails, means he misses the league game with Juventus at the end of this month. That is potentially very damaging to Milan's defence of their scudetto.

Last season, Ibrahimovic waited until March to see red and get himself banned for a key stage of the season. His form had already begun to tail off significantly.

The season before, while at Barcelona, he started to feel grumpy in February, and got himself a red card in March. This pattern only invites the idea, widely held outside Serie A, that the Swede does not take pressure, which increases towards spring, very well.

As a young man, Ibrahimovic had a rebellious streak. At 30, he no longer has immaturity of years as an alibi.

Milan are beginning to shrug at the inevitable fact that their best player becomes, for about two months a year, a liability.