It hasn’t always been convincing from Hakan Calhanoglu since he joined us in 2017, but the Turkish playmaker might just be entering a pivotal period in his career.
Having managed just 19 goals and 30 assists in 121 appearances for the Rossoneri, it has often led to criticism and scrutiny from supporters and pundits alike as given he has been such a regular in the XI and has had an important role to play, he hasn’t delivered anywhere near often enough.
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Now 26 years of age though and now in his third year at Milan, Calhanoglu is starting to show signs of becoming a leading figure and he hasn’t had the Europa League or its qualification rounds this time round to fluff up his numbers.
In his first season with us, the Turkish international scored six goals and provided nine assists in 31 league outings. Last year, he contributed three goals and six assists in 36 games, while so far this season he has bagged four goals and three assists in 27 league appearances.
With eight more games to go, he’ll hope to continue to build on those tallies, but there is no doubt how important he is considered by Stefano Pioli and how highly he rates him as a player as he has made him a focal point of the side this campaign.
Still work to be done, but positive signs
This piece is not to say that Calhanoglu is perfect and that he’s now giving as much as he can. There is still significant room for improvement and he must still be more decisive and more consistent.
However, what he does well should also be highlighted too if we’re going to criticism where he goes wrong as his work-rate and commitment to the press and putting pressure on the opposition is arguably an underrated quality of his and he puts in real hard work for the team.
That said, that’s not his primary job in the team and so to see him score two goals and provide two assists in the four Serie A games since the restart, it bodes well for the rest of the season and his role moving forward if he can build on this and show he is indeed capable of delivering regularly for us.
His versatility is perhaps also undervalued as Pioli has shifted him around on a number of occasions this season even during games as he’s popped up in various roles in midfield, and that’s only possible due to his technical quality and tactical intelligence that he’s able to play in different positions.
It’s no coincidence that it’s been suggested that he could be a vital part of Ralf Rangnick’s plans if he arrives this summer, as noted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, as he’s also now one of the more established and senior players in the dressing room and he has to continue to evolve into a leader both on and off the pitch in the next phase of his career.
Yes, Calhanoglu has disappointed and been underwhelming for a large part of his stint with us thus far. He has shown glimpses and positive signs all too irregularly, but his form since the restart has been crucial to our upturn in form and it’s hopefully now the start of a maturing, developing and improving individual coming to the fore and really proving his quality and importance to Milan in the coming years.
It’s hoped the injury he hobbled off with at Lazio isn’t serious, as this in-form Calhanoglu could be hugely important to us in the next eight games to ensure we’re back in the Europa League next season.