Polarising Milan star pulls strings in Lecce win to show his class but now comes real test

Having been directly involved in three of our four goals vs Lecce, Milan ace Hakan Calhanoglu will have silenced his most ardent of detractors on Monday at least.

The 26-year-old has contributed just 17 goals and 30 assists in 118 appearances for the club since his arrival in 2017, with Goal.com noting that we splashed out €25m on him.

READ MORE: Five key talking points as Milan find goalscoring touch in 4-1 win over Lecce

Given the quality and potential that he showed in the Bundesliga, there was undoubtedly an air of excitement and intrigue over the signing and what the Turkish international could provide for us moving forward.

For the most part though, it’s been a major disappointment.

Too often he’s shown glimpses of his quality but has lacked any real consistency when he performs at a high level and that has undoubtedly led to a high degree of frustration and at times anger from some Milan supporters, as displayed on social media on countless matchdays when things don’t go Calhanoglu’s way.

While he’s had to put up with a lot of stick, and fairly so at times, he then deserves credit when it’s due and that was certainly the case on Monday after he starred in our 4-1 win over Lecce.

From his assists for Samu Castillejo and Ante Rebic to his shot being spilled for Giacomo Bonaventura to tap home the rebound and spraying the pass out wide for Andrea Conti to set up Rafael Leao, Calhanoglu was at the heart of all our goals at Lecce and it was great to see him show his class.

Further, his work-rate and commitment to sacrificing himself for the team often goes under the radar too, when it should be something that earns him praise.

There is little doubt that since Stefano Pioli’s appointment, the Turkish playmaker has improved. He looks more comfortable, confident and more likely to make something happen.

He still needs to produce more consistently and has a long way to go, but particularly with the energy, urgency and quality offered around him by Rebic, Castillejo and Bonaventura, he put in a stellar performance vs Lecce as he floated around the final third to pull the strings and played a decisive role in an important victory.

That said, it’s one thing doing that against a side in the bottom three in Serie A and who have now conceded 60 goals this season. It’s another entirely doing it vs Roma on Sunday in a crunch clash which we need a positive result in as we look to close the gap and stay in contention for Europa League qualification.

This isn’t the first game that Calhanoglu has impressed in under Pioli, and most likely won’t be the last. However, he’s now 26. He is maturing and reaching what should be the peak years of his career, and with that needs to come consistency and an ability to produce moments of magic against the top teams when his side need him to stand up, be counted and deliver.

If he can do that, then perhaps there is still time for him to turn some opinions on him around.