Arrigo Sacchi has suggested that AC Milan should feel plenty of regret after they let Hakan Calhanoglu leave and join rivals Inter on a free transfer, where he seems to be flourishing.
There is no love lost between Calhanoglu and the Milan fans given that he left the Rossoneri in the summer of 2021 after they did not renew his contract and decided to join city rivals Inter on a free transfer.
After being runner-up to the Nerazzurri in the Scudetto battle when he was with Milan in 2020-21, he had to watch his former team-mates lift the league title the next season as the Rossoneri got their 19th, but this year he is on course to celebrate given Inter are top.
Sacchi gave an interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport which for some strange reason centred entirely around Calhanoglu and his rebirth at Inter, with some comments offered on Milan and the decision to let him walk.
How do you rate Calhanoglu’s performance?
“He’s doing very well and, above all, he’s doing a lot. You can see it in all areas of the pitch: he runs and makes his team-mates run.”
Milan must be regretting letting him go, considering they don’t have a similar player. Was it a mistake
“Speaking with the benefit of hindsight, one would say yes. But these are situations that often occur in football. I, for example, despite the fact that they had offered him to me when I was a manager, didn’t sign Andrea Pirlo. And then we saw who he then became.
“At Milan Calhanoglu had already shown that he was good. Then, however, he was an attacking midfielder, or at most the left winger. Now it’s a different thing, now he’s a team man.”
What type of player is he?
“I define him with just one adjective: complete. He can cover all roles in midfield, he moves with great intelligence and gets his teammates moving by dictating the timing of almost all actions.
“He knows when to play short and when to , we need to throw long. I repeat: we are faced with a complete and modern footballer in the interpretation of the role.”
Speaking of the role: he too, like Pirlo, went from being a playmaker to becoming a director…
“By changing roles he demonstrated that he is a boy of high intellectual level. He understood what his qualities were and what the team’s needs were. He made himself available and a new Calhanoglu was born.
“It must be said that in Inter’s midfield he is greatly helped by Barella and Mkhitaryan, and a notable contribution is also made by the wingers, especially Dimarco on the left. But Calhanoglu, just like Pirlo did, is demonstrating a remarkable personality. He is the fulcrum of Inter, the one around whom everything revolves.”
His best qualities?
“Definitely his vision of the game. He knows, before the others, where the ball will end up. He knows the rhythm of the match. He is able to decide in a very short time on which side the opponent should attack, whether it is better to stall or accelerate.
“And then He has precision of touch, both long and short, and a great shot. From a penalty kick he is lethal, he almost never makes mistakes. And even on free kicks from the edge of the area he is precise and powerful.”
Is he among the best in Europe at the moment?
“In my opinion, as a regista, he is among the top three. He has made incredible improvements and has shown that success is only achieved when you believe in yourself and work to make a leap in quality.
“He is now one of the best players in Europe and you can also see it in the Champions League matches. He knows how to set up and he knows how to defend. And, above all, he has the personalities to lead the team.”
Is it a difficult role, that of director?
“Probably the most difficult. It is the player who has the score handed over by the coach in his hand and who has to make them ‘play’ by starting the build-up.
“It is a job of responsibility, you are involved in the two phases, both attacking and defensive, and you need to have a global vision of the pitch and the team. Not everyone can be a director, so to speak.”
Give us some examples…
“Pirlo was a great interpreter of this role, as was Xavi in Guardiola’s Barcelona. Even Modric, despite not being a kid anymore, is great. But the Croatian is more of a midfielder than a director.
“I really like Rodri of Manchester City. However, there aren’t many around at the moment. At Napoli last season, Lobotka enchanted me, but it seems to me he has had an involution.”