Hakan Çalhanoğlu spoke of how much Gennaro Gattuso changed him, said he would take Douglas Costa out of Juve if he could and stated he would like to win the Coppa Italia with a free kick.
The most important match of the season takes place tomorrow as the Coppa Italia is on the line, with Milan facing Juventus at Stadio Olimpico (21:00 CET kickoff).
One of the key men in the encounter is without a doubt Hakan Çalhanoğlu. The Turkish is undoubtedly an important player in the squad of Gattuso and when he was not on the pitch through injury recently, Milan found themselves struggling. But on Wednesday he will be there, and he wants to win the trophy.
“If I’m excited as this could be my first career title? I’m very excited, and also very fired-up,” Hakan told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It is also my first final: in Germany I never managed to get to the end of a competition. It it without a doubt the most important game of my career and I feel ready to face it. I want to win this trophy. I feel strong in the legs and in the head, I feel at a top condition – I’m back.
“Where was I gone? I saw everything dark. I didn’t understand the language, and this was the most important problem at the level of settling-in. On the field, meanwhile, I didn’t have an adequate physical condition due to the long ban. Then Gattuso arrived and everything changed.
“Gattuso has changed my mentality and helped me understand the Italian one. He is without a doubt the most important coach of my career. He has improved me in everything, starting from my certainties. He made regain confidence in myself, he allowed me to enjoy my private life because at first, I didn’t even go out – I always stayed indoors and didn’t do anything but work out. And on the weekends, I saw the field very little. Now, however, I play, I win, I go out and I also taste the rest of the day. He played, he knows what a player needs. And then in every training session he tries to transfer his mentality, he pushes us to improve ourselves every day.
“Gattuso said he had several talks with me? When he arrived, he spoke to me and showed me some videos, but in reality, they were quite short talks because I understand what he wanted from me on the fly. We spoke no more than 2-3 times. If there’s any particular phrase that stuck with me? The most important one was: ‘You are strong, free your mind and play without worries.’ I did just that.
“If I was satisfied with his renewal? I’m happy, the club made the right choice because he can open an important cycle at Milan. I too can be a part of it? Look, I can only thank everyone: the coach, the staff, the teammates and the fans. In the negative moments they helped a lot.
“Montella? I would like to point out that I have never spoken ill of Montella. I just say that every coach has his own philosophy. He is certainly not a bad coach: simply, a series of little things lead me to say that I find myself better with Gattuso. I also speak in English to him, while Montella for example only spoke in Italian. I like talking to coaches, coaches should often talk to the players. And then Montella left me little freedom on the pitch. Now I play free in my mind and in the muscles.
“How do I cope with the Italian? I speak a bit, I learned the Italian culture and tradition because we need to know not only the language but also the people, know what they want from you. And what I want from Milan? Win this trophy. It would be fundamental to improve, it’s something that would change the mentality and the whole season. It would change everything.
“The match in Turin, but also the one in Milan, showed that we can beat Juventus. We can do it. We had our chances, for example at Juventus Stadium I hit the crossbar. We know their strength well, they have great players but there’s a lot of quality in our group too. Who would I remove from Juventus if I could? Douglas Costa, whom I know from Germany. He’s very fast, smart and he can change the games. But if we play as a team we can stop him. And then the focus can’t just be on him.
“Apart from myself, who could be the key man for Milan? Juventus are very strong up front, so I would say Bonucci and Romagnoli will play a decisive role. With which weapons can we beat Juventus? Mentality, that’s the most important factor. With the collective and with the heart.
“The perfect postcard I would like to send from Rome? A victory with one of my goals via a free kick [laughs]. It would be a dream. They all expect the famous Çalhanoğlu free kick and until now I haven’t succeeded yet. If I could, in this respect, I could finally relax a bit.
“The number 10 shirt? I know that big number 10’s played here and it’s not easy to say now ‘I am the real 10 of Milan’. This, in anything, will be said by the fans. It’s a heavy number, I just say that I’m on the right track and I can be a good #10, but I still have to improve a lot. Having this number, however, is not a problem for me, the fact that it was worn by great champions makes me happy.
“Gattuso said that in the future I can be used like Pirlo in front of the defense? I already did it in Germany and I think I did a good job. It’s not a problem: if he puts me there, I’ll play there, he chooses, and I play. I know how to handle the ball, but Pirlo was a maestro.
“If I feel like a leader in this team? No, because in this team they are all leaders. We must think in terms of a collective, even if I know I can change the course of a game because it’s part of my way of playing. But we win and lose all together.
“What is my best quality? Putting my teammates in a position to do well thanks to my assists. I can change the pace of the game according to the needs: sometimes it can also be needed to slow down and control. I think I have the right vision to understand the various moments of a match.
“My strengths and weaknesses outside the pitch? I’m a person with a mindset that is open to everything, I find it very important to enjoy life. There’s only one and you have to enjoy it, because tomorrow maybe you may not be there anymore. I don’t see any defects in the sense that I never think of negative things, I’m positive by nature. We can say that I never want to lose, is it a defect?
“If I kiss the Milan badge or bite it when I celebrate a goal? It’s a bite, because everyone sends kisses, but I don’t intend to do so. I don’t kiss on the field – I bite. The kiss represents love; the bite, however, desire. So, it represents me.”