Why Milan ace now faces major challenge after finally producing perfect response

After being one of the players to be jeered by the San Siro faithful ahead of Milan’s clash with Lecce this past weekend, Hakan Calhanoglu was under immense pressure.

Since joining the club in 2017, the 25-year-old has ultimately failed to deliver at the level that perhaps the club and many supporters expected him to.

SEE MORE: Five key talking points as Milan show positive signs but let win slip vs Lecce

While he’s shown his quality at times, tallies of 14 goals and 25 assists in 99 games for us suggest that he hasn’t been decisive or influential enough in the final third, especially when you consider he has been given such an important role by every coach he’s worked under.

In turn, with those jeers in mind coupled with the abject and underwhelming performances he had produced prior to Sunday night against Lecce, he was arguably playing for his place in the side as he was given a clean slate by Stefano Pioli.

What followed was a superb individual display from start to finish. The Turkish international showed heart, determination and commitment off the ball to harass the Lecce players and win possession back in an all-action performance.

More importantly, he showed quality and a decisive touch in the final third as he not only scored the opening goal of the game, but his brilliant skill in the lead up to his assist for Krzysztof Piatek’s goal was sublime as it looked as though the confidence was flowing through him again.

It was almost as if we were watching a different player to the one we’ve seen almost lost at times out on the pitch in recent months, and it was a welcome and refreshing boost to see him flourish in a free role in the final third as he was constantly roaming and getting around the pitch to make the difference.

The major disappointment was that we couldn’t hold out for the win, but we may well have seen Calhanoglu’s best performance since joining us in terms of sustaining his level of quality over 90 minutes and showing a level of fitness to keep plugging away and not drifting out of the game.

Consistency is key, one performance not enough

While that addresses all the positives, Calhanoglu is arguably now facing the biggest challenge yet. Having set the standard with that performance on Sunday, he has shown what he’s capable of.

In order to put his struggles firmly behind him, to fully convince Milan fans and to now establish himself as a fundamental figure in the Rossoneri XI, he must produce that kind of performance week in and week out.

It’s all well and good putting in a top-class shift under a new coach and trying to catch his eye to ensure you stay in the side, but it’s another challenge altogether to now prove yourself worthy of the No.10 jersey and to kick on to emerge as one of our most important players.

That is a process that is long overdue and it will take weeks to determine whether or not Calhanoglu is on the right path or if this was simply a false dawn. For now though, Sunday night showed what he can produce and the level of performance we need to see from him. It’s up to him to prove that he’s capable of delivering with the consistency that separates the average and great players.

Yes it was only one game and admittedly it was against a poor Lecce side. However, for all the criticism and scrutiny that he has faced, he deserves to be praised when he produces, and he certainly did that this past weekend and it’s hopefully a performance he builds on now rather than fails to follow up.