Hakan Çalhanoğlu believes Milan will soon get to experience Champions League nights but for now focuses on the upcoming Derby della Madonnina.
The draw for the Champions League quarter finals took place today and the Rossoneri will be hoping that next year it will also be relevant for them, as Milan are fighting for a place in the competition.
Milan are currently in third place and have a crucial match against Inter (4th place) on Sunday. The boys of Gennaro Gattuso will all have to play at their best, and this includes Hakan Çalhanoğlu, who’s had a very complicated season with more lows than highs.
“How are we approaching the game? Very well… we’re all waiting for it,” the 25-year-old Turkish international told Friday’s editions of La Gazzetta dello Sport and il Giornale. “There are strong feelings, a great expectation. The importance is particular, we cannot hide it.
“How am I coming to the derby? Football is a question of timing… there are highs and there are lows. I am, by character, always focused on the group and not on myself. However, I’m happy with the way the last two weeks have gone, the situation has improved.
“What I say to those who called me Gattuso’s ‘darling’? [Laughs] It’s very simple: in my career I’ve always had excellent relationships with all of my coaches. I respect the coach and I get respect myself. And then, I’d like to point out that Gattuso is like this with all the players, not just with me. The relationship is good with the whole team, he was a player and he knows what his players need.
“Gattuso said he often talks to me? In a dressing room, the communication between the coach and the players is fundamental and it works at Milanello. He transmits so much positive energy and lets us play at a high level. He helped me in my private life too. I’ve been a dad for a few days now? It’s a great emotion. Liya [his daughter] is my last thought before I sleep and my first when I wake up.
“If I’m better as a midfielder or winger? It always depends on the choices of the coach: I adapt and adapt again, covering the required role. If needed, I can also play on the right [of the attack] and if by chance there’s someone in better shape than me then I’ll go sit on the bench, as it already happened.
“This positive energy will maybe help me score a few goals? I don’t feel this pressure or the need to have to score goals at all costs. In my football concept there is no place for selfishness. Furthermore, considering the difference in my numbers between the Bundesliga and Serie A, we must consider a fact that is often overlooked: [in Italy] I run 12-13 kilometers per match on average and I work for the group. I believe my performances are positive and I feel good.
“Difference between German and Italian leagues? In Germany I played mainly for the attack. This is why I scored more, I also took all the free kicks. In Italy the tactical aspect is very important and I must adapt to the new gaming system. The fans are waiting for the free-kicks that me famous? I still think that I’m among the best in this aspect. I repeat, it doesn’t make me feel under pressure.
“If the rumours about a possible sale in January were anything concrete? You should ask my agent… I know of the interest of some clubs but I’m happy here and with my work here. I hope to stay at Milan for long but it’s a decision that belongs to the club.
“My feelings ahead of the derby? It will be a different game and a different story [compared to the first round derby]. We have great respect for Inter, we know that it will be very tough. We’ll play at home and we’ll have the support of our fans, yet we’ll have to give 150%. If I agree with the predictions that Milan are favorites? We’re not favorites, but we’re in great shape.
“We feel strong, we feel good and we are having a great run thanks to Piątek’s great numbers. The ideal postcard for Sunday night? I would like to assist Krzysztof’s winning goal. He and Paquetá quickly entered the group. They put forward their great qualities and they were helped by all of us.
“Who is close to me at Milanello? To tell the truth, the climate between us is very similar to that of a family, as can also be seen through social media. The nicest [teammate] for me is Kessié. With Bakayoko, who I consider the surprise of the season, I’m more tied. First there were waterfalls of whistles, now he is a king… he deserves it because he trains very hard. What kind of captain is Romagnoli? He’s more than a captain, he’s a very good player and I like him a lot.
“Leonardo and Maldini? Training in front of them puts some pressure, but it makes you feel good and makes you accountable of the club you are in. What didn’t work between Higuain and Milan? I can’t say… you can’t put the responsibility on him or on Milan. Some seasons are like that.
“Who would I take away from Inter? I’d say Politano. The absence of Icardi is good news for us? He’s important to them, I can’t express myself on that and I don’t want to enter into matters concerning other clubs. If I imagined arriving to the derby when ahead of the Nerazzurri in the standings? In our minds we always had the idea of getting closer… We’re approaching Napoli? The road is still long for us to take a place in the CL. The closer we are to Napoli, the better it will be for all of us.
“A magical night like that of Juventus [vs Atletico]? We will get to experience a Champions League evening, we are close to taking a place in the competition and it has been missing for so long.”