Hakan Calhanoglu embracing role of veteran for a young AC Milan squad

At the age of 26, Hakan Calhanoglu is by no means old in football.

But, as part of an AC Milan youth movement looking to reclaim a spot atop the Serie A summit, Calhanoglu finds himself thrust into the role of senior figure in the Rossoneri dressing room.

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The playmaker, with a penchant for stunning freekicks, can't claim to be Milan's oldest player, especially after the January return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

At 38 years old, Ibrahimovic, a member of the last Rossoneri side to win the Scudetto in 2011, has made an impact on the field with six goals in 13 games. He's also been trying to teach his younger teammates.

"I think also Zlatan has learnt some things from me," Calhanoglu said joking, when asked by ESPN what it has been like training with Zlatan.

Switching to a more serious tone, Calhanoglu continued: "My friendship with him is very good. He's a leader and we work together a lot after the main training. He gives me tips on what I can do better on the field but what I like a lot from him is his passion.

"He speaks a lot about being a lion but he is a real lion -- in the way he trains and plays and how he wants to win every time even in training.

Following Tuesday's shocking win over league-leading Juventus, where Milan came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 at San Siro, optimism is brewing for this young team. The win was the fourth one for Milan since play restarted in late June and the Rossoneri are starting to dream of a return to its glory days, despite their current fifth-place standings in the Serie table.

Calhanoglu believes they can use the team's past as motivation to reclaim Milan's place among Europe's elite.

"Milan is where we are because they were at the top all the time, so now we have to bring the club back there," said the German-born Turkey international. "... We have a young team so we need a little bit of time but we're on our way and I hope, both for myself and Milan, that we get there."

Starting the final season of the four-year contract he signed when he joined Milan in 2017, Calhanoglu is also ready to step up and be a leader for the club.

"The 'talented [youngster]' part of my career is finished," Calhanoglu said. "Now, I'm going towards the 'experienced player' category and I like it. To take the team in my hand, I like playing as a leader because I have confident in myself so I'm not scared.

"I know what I can do on the pitch, I've shown it a lot of times. If I am in the leader role, why not?"