Calhanoglu explains why Pioli, Ibrahimovic and playing in his favoured role have been so crucial

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu has praised the impact that head coach Stefano Pioli and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic have had on him since their arrival.

Calhanoglu enjoyed a big upturn in form post-lockdown as the team won nine of their final 12 league games to secure a spot in the Europa League, something that was in severe doubt before.

Only Lionel Messi (15) was involved in more goals than Calhanoglu (14) in the big-five leagues post-lockdown. The Turkey international also became the first Milan midfielder to be directly involved (goal or assist) in at least one goal in five successive league games since Kaka in 2008.

Calhanoglu was interviewed by DAZN and Goal about working under Pioli, alongside Ibrahimovic and about objectives for the season, with his responses transcribed by MilanNews.

“Stefano Pioli brought us a lot from a tactical point of view. Nothing against his predecessor Marco Giampaolo, but somehow his systems hadn’t got there, with Pioli instead it works much better,” he said.

“Ibrahimovic’s return then, with the his mentality and his qualities on the pitch still drives the team forward in growth. For me personally, it was important to finally be able to play in my favourite position permanently, and the coach made it possible for me.

“Zlatan has so many ideas that he wants to achieve with us on the pitch. All his experience helps us further and, above all, his unconditional desire to win. It all starts with training. Zlatan wants to win every little training match from alone, he is very ambitious and gets very angry when he loses.

“He knew me and my qualities even before his return to Milan. He always asks me to play freely, not to think too much and to always be 100% focused. He transmits his experiences to me. On the pitch I know how he moves and he knows my plays.”

On Rangnick: “With all due respect to Ralf Rangnick, because I know him from the Bundesliga and many have asked me about him, despite the rumours, Pioli gave 100% every day and we paid him back on the pitch.”

On the objectives for the season: “We want to build the present and the future on tradition, around Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini. Our goal is clearly to reach the Champions League. We have welcomed Tonali, Zlatan has renewed, we want to achieve something. In any case, my hopes are high.”

Tags AC Milan Hakan Calhanoglu Stefano Poli Zlatan Ibrahimovic