'Playing with Ibrahimovic is a gift' - Milan's Hernandez delighted to learn from 'one of the best players in the world'

Milan full-back Theo Hernandez says playing alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a "gift", and that he is grateful to be learning from "one of the best players in the world".

Hernandez completed a €20 million (£18m/$22m) move to San Siro from Real Madrid in July 2019, and quickly adapted to his new surroundings in the Italian capital. The 22-year-old has contributed six goals and three assists to Milan's cause in 25 competitive outings this season, helping them fight for a top-six Serie A finish and compete in the latter stages of the Coppa Italia.

The Rossoneri are no longer the major force of old, but signs of a revival have been shown in recent months, with Hernandez standing out as one of the most consistent performers in Stefano Pioli's line up.

Another man who has made a huge difference is veteran striker Ibrahimovic, who returned to the club on a free transfer in January after a successful spell in MLS with the LA Galaxy. The 38-year-old hit four goals in his first ten outings, and helped raise the level of the rest of his team-mates before the campaign was called to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been reported that Milan will offer Ibrahimovic a fresh one-year deal before his contract expires this summer, and Hernandez has highlighted how important the ex-Sweden international has been in his development this year.

“It has been a very important year for me,” The French defender told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I adapted very quickly to a new league and the pressures of a big club. The confidence that the coach has in me, the help from my teammates and the affection of our fans are fundamental.

“Coach Pioli’s confidence in me is particularly decisive. I am in a top club and have the opportunity to learn from the best, that’s one of the things I appreciate the most.

“Being able to train with Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a gift, the chance to work with one of the best players in the world.”

Hernandez added on how easy the transition from La Liga to Serie A has been for him: "I immediately felt at home here, with my teammates, the culture, the city and the philosophy of the club. All these factors together got the best out of me.

“I’m still very young, so we’ll see what the future holds with regards to my tactical position. I feel important and that fills me with confidence, but I don’t have the experience yet to be a leader.”

Theo Hernandez Milan Sampdoria

Despite the fact Hernandez is contracted to remain at San Siro until 2024, he has been linked with a summer transfer, with Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona touted as possible next destinations.

The former Madrid star is fully focused on his duties at Milan, however, having been persuaded to join the club by the legendary Paolo Maldini, and is now determined to earn a place in the France senior squad alongside his brother Lucas - who plies his trade in Germany with Bayern Munich.

Hernandez added: “Maldini has always been a reference point for me. Everyone would like to see themselves in him, as he had a glorious career and represents Milan.

"When you have a champion like that in front of you, there’s no need to think it over. I want to help bring Milan back to where it belongs, for its history and the love of its fans.

“I will now work to earn my place in the France squad and be ready for when Euro 2020 comes around next summer, although certain choices simply aren’t up to me. I could play alongside my brother Lucas Hernandez. Not bad, eh?”