AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has addressed the speculation surrounding the future of Manchester United linked-midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu.
Calhanoglu has established himself as one of the top playmakers in Serie A since joining Milan for an initial fee of €20 million (£18m/$24m) from Bayer Leverkusen in July 2017.
The Turkey international has scored 29 goals in 149 games for the Rossoneri, while also laying on 45 assists, attracting plenty of admirers from afar in the process.
United are reportedly weighing up a January move for the 26-year-old, who will be free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with any potential suitors when the transfer market reopens.
Calhanoglu will drop into the free agency pool next summer unless Milan can tie him down to fresh terms, with Italian champions Juventus also thought to be keeping a close eye on his situation.
However, Pioli is confident that the former Leverkusen star will extend his stay at San Siro, as he told DAZN after watching him score in the Rossoneri's 3-2 home win over Lazio on Wednesday night.
"Calha is fantastic, he is intelligent, he can move well, he knows how to attack and he knows how to connect the game. He sacrifices himself," said the Italian head coach.
"I want him at this level, he is a top player. I don't think there are problems. Calha is with us and with the club. I'm sure that his will is to stay, there is a negotiation.
"The club, technical area, the player and I want the same thing, he has reached important levels and can still grow. He's a player to bet on."
Calhanoglu's latest strike came from the penalty spot either side of goals from Ante Rebic and Theo Hernandez against Lazio, with Milan's 10th victory of the season ensuring that they are still the only unbeaten side in Europe's top five leagues heading into 2021.
Pioli's men are sitting one point clear of local rivals Inter at the summit after 14 fixtures, with Juve nine points further back in sixth after a stuttering start to their latest title defence.
The Milan head coach is happy with how far his team have come over past 12 months, but still believes there is plenty of room for improvement in the second half of the campaign.
“The club deserves the praise for 2020," Pioli added. "They are helping us to work in the best possible way. They gave me strong and young footballers.
“They are all aware of their qualities and I expect to see the same things in 2021. We are not perfect. There are many things we need to solve.
"We can’t always dominate games, it’s normal, when we don’t do it, we must be compact and suffer.
“We played many games, I hope injured players will return soon. It was difficult to rotate players but these guys have a soul.
"The fans welcomed us at the stadium today, they are giving us so much.”
By James westwood
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