During the eventful 2017 summer transfer window, Milan opted to bring in Hakan Calhanoglu from Bayer Leverkusen as they oversaw an exciting squad rebuild.
The 25-year-old had established a positive reputation during his time in Germany, providing creative quality and technical class in the final third to suggest he could add flair and style to Milan’s attack.
Such was the faith in his ability, Goal.com note that we opted to spend €25m to sign him, as he penned a four-year deal and was handed the prestigious No.10 jersey.
Unfortunately, what has followed has been a largely underwhelming spell for us, as the Turkish international has managed 12 goals and 24 assists in 91 appearances across all competitions.
On one hand, he will have needed time to adjust to life in a new environment, culture and squad, and so that settling in period in Italy would have been difficult for any player, let alone a then 23-year-old still looking to prove he could be a top player and now under pressure to do so given his price-tag.
Further, Calhanoglu was regularly played out of his more natural position, as he was often deployed on the left wing in the 4-3-3.
While he has shown glimpses of his quality and impressed in the back-end of last season when played in the midfield three, he has been wildly inconsistent and has certainly struggled to not only justify his fee, but also to prove that he can be the creative hub that Milan expected him to be.
That burden has lessened with Lucas Paqueta’s arrival, while Suso, albeit battling with his own problems with inconsistency, has continued to be a key figure in the final third.
Nevertheless, question marks have once again been raised over Calhanoglu’s time in Milan, as MilanNews.it note, via Sky Sport Italia, that he could be included in a swap deal to land Dayot Upamecano.
Time will tell if such a deal materialises, but as things continue to develop in the transfer market this summer, there could potentially be a fresh start for him under Marco Giampaolo this season as he could get more time to come good.
Could Calhanoglu still be key to Giampaolo’s plans?
As per Sky Sport Italia, Milan appear set to miss out on Jordan Veretout who is expected to swap Fiorentina for Roma this summer, which is a blow for the Rossoneri given speculation has been rife for weeks over the Frenchman being a top target to strengthen our midfield.
Coupled with the fact that Calhanoglu could fit much better in Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 system as a mezzala, allowing him to display his technical quality in a more natural role and with players around him to help develop an identity and attacking style to our football, the new Milan boss could perhaps be tempted to keep him at the club.
Further, there are sadly no guarantees that Giacomo Bonaventura is going to come back the same player after another serious injury setback is bound to take its toll, while Rade Krunic will be pushing for a starting place having been brought in to provide quality depth and competition for places.
Provided that Milan don’t bring in an alternative to Veretout, that could mean Calhanoglu has a key role to play this coming season, with Suso and Paqueta either fighting for the trequartista role or with the latter being pushed back into the midfield trio to make way for the Spaniard.
Calhanoglu hasn’t justified his move to Milan as of yet, but admittedly there is a personal hope that he can kick on under Giampaolo and start to consistently produce to make himself an indispensable figure in the starting XI.
It remains to be seen if he gets the chance to do so as Giampaolo will be closely assessing his new squad in pre-season, while there have been whispers that Calhanoglu could showcase his versatility by playing in a deeper midfield role to provide another solution to the likes of Lucas Biglia and Ismael Bennacer, with the Guardian noting that the latter is set to join from Empoli.
The Turkish ace has the attributes with his vision, passing range and tenacity off the ball to play such a role, although his lack of defensive awareness and general lack of familiarity with such a key position could mean that is more of a pipe dream to see him stay rather than a feasible solution. Perhaps he has had his chance and failed, and so now his future lies in the hands of Giampaolo.