A post-match argument between the Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a female journalist has overshadowed the club's 2-0 win over Lecce at San Siro on Sunday.
Ibrahimovic was involved in an angry exchange with the Sky journalist Vera Spadini, during which television pictures appeared to show him swearing at her. Milan last night tried to play down the incident, releasing a statement claiming that the dispute had been "cleared up" in a phone call between the pair involved.
"A few minutes ago there was a phone call between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sky journalist Vera Spadini to clear up the misunderstanding between the two at the end of Milan-Lecce," a statement on the club's official website read.
Despite that, the Sweden striker's outburst, and the accompanying television pictures, featured prominently in the Italian press yesterday.
Ibrahimovic had scored his side's second goal of the game to help Milan open a four-point lead over Juventus at the top of Serie A. The enigmatic Sweden striker was then interviewed pitchside, during which he turned away from the camera and said: "What the **** are you looking at?" at Spadini.
The altercation reportedly continued afterwards, with Ibrahimovic allegedly also flicking his headband at Spadini.
Ibrahimovic had been aggrieved at reports in the Italian press in recent days which claimed he had been involved in an altercation with his coach, Massimiliano Allegri, after Milan's Champions League match at Arsenal in midweek.
Milan were beaten 3-0 as they just held on to their 4-0 advantage from the first leg to progress, with reports later suggesting Ibrahimovic had been unimpressed with his manager's tactics.
The striker had denied those reports, with Allegri backing him on Sunday, saying: "As for Ibra, thankfully these stories emerge every now and then, otherwise it gets boring. Nothing happened, as it's normal there are discussions between a coach and his players."
Diego Milito, the Argentinian striker who plays for Milan's city rivals Internazionale, is confident his team can ease pressure on their manager Claudio Ranieri by progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Despite the backing of the Inter president, Massimo Moratti, Ranieri's position has become uncertain following a poor run of results. Andre Ayew's late winner in the 1-0 defeat at Marseilles a fortnight ago came in the middle of a nine-game winless run for Internazionale that was finally ended with a 2-0 success at Chievo on Friday night.
Milito scored in added time to seal the win and the Argentine believes the overdue success will inspire them to turn around the deficit against a French side who are themselves struggling. "We're convinced we can overturn the result," he said. "We played very well in the first leg and didn't deserve to lose. We're sure that we can win with the help of our fans. We're sure we can still do well in the Champions League. If we get through this round we'll be among the top eight teams in Europe.
"The match is massive and we're desperate to do well. And after that we'll have everything to play for – this team have already shown they're capable of going all the way."
Moratti offered Ranieri his full backing after the win at Chievo, although an early Champions League exit could test his patience. "It's not easy for a coach to read in the papers every day that there's a new coach coming in to replace him," Moratti said. "Ranieri is professional, he's getting on with his job and he has my complete support in this difficult time that he's experiencing and that we're trying to get through."
Despite Ranieri's problems his opposite number, Didier Deschamps, is under just as much pressure following an alarming slump in form.
Since beating Inter, Marseilles have lost their past four domestic league games, without scoring, to slip to eighth in the Ligue 1 table. A 1-0 reverse at relegation-threatened Ajaccio at the weekend was sweetened only by the return of star striker Loïc Rémy from injury as a half-time substitute.
The France international is set to start at San Siro tonight and fellow attacker Mathieu Valbuena believes he could help claim a win to turn their season around.
"If we are fortunate enough to qualify for the quarter-finals, it will give us the confidence and serenity for the rest of the season," Valbuena said. "Our recent results have not been good. If we can get through this it will be huge."Reuse content