Speaking in bundesliga.com's Interview of the Week ahead of the season's restart, the 20-year-old Germany-born Turkish international looked ahead to the upcoming BayArena clash, spoke about both his own and Leverkusen's future as well as explaining the secret behind his unique shooting technique.
bundesliga.com: Hakan Calhanoglu, you're up against Borussia Dortmund in your first competitive game of 2015 on Saturday. Are you glad the Bundesliga is about to resume after the mid-season hiatus?
Hakan Calhanoglu: Most definitely! We've all been longing for the second half of the season to get underway, the players as much as the spectators, both in the stadiums as well as at home. We can't wait for our game against Dortmund to kick off.
bundesliga.com: How do you rate the opposition considering their poor season so far?
Calhanoglu: Dortmund are a very strong side and they've shown it many times. They're still a top team. Lots of things can go wrong in football, which is why they're lower down in the table at the moment. But they'll be giving it their all to make up for it. We'll need to be prepared for it.
bundesliga.com: Do you expect them to remain as attack-minded as they've always been?
Calhanoglu: Naturally I don't know how the coach will set-up the team, but he may well make a few changes. We should only concentrate on ourselves, though, and play our own game.
bundesliga.com: How will you be approaching the game?
Calhanoglu: We want to attack and dictate the rhythm as this is our system and what we expect from ourselves. The coach has set us up for this style of play and we stick to it as best we can. This won't change in the second half of the season.
bundesliga.com: Your stunning 40-metre free-kick for Hamburger SV against Borussia Dortmund almost a year ago is certainly one of the more memorable goals in Bundesliga history. Do you remind yourself of it often?
Calhanoglu: Of course, it's a moment I'll never forget. It was certainly my favourite goal.
'You do feel a bit of pressure'
bundesliga.com: Were you actually convinced you could beat from such a distance?
Calhanoglu: My team-mates told me to give it a bash. The game was all but over, we led 2-0 and it was into injury time. I felt confident and said to myself: 'just give it a try.' I know I have a good shot. I struck the ball very well and it had an extraordinary trajectory.
bundesliga.com: Do you think you can do this again on Saturday?
Calhanoglu:(Laughing) No, I won't be scoring again from 40 metres against Dortmund. But anywhere near the penalty box I'm always good for a goal.
bundesliga.com: People seem to expect you to perform miracles each time you step up for a free-kick. Does this put a lot of pressure for you?
Calhanoglu: You do feel a bit of pressure of course. You have something to prove taking a free-kick, and the people know that striking the ball is my greatest skill. But when I'm stepping up to take a set-piece all I think about is my team. It's a great feeling when I hit the ball well and it hits the back of the net or if I provide the assist for one of my team-mates to convert.
bundesliga.com: How often do you practice free-kicks?
Calhanoglu: I do free-kick exercises three times a week, shooting 20 from the right and as many from the left. My free-kicks are being recorded, and the coaches analyse them afterwards. I myself also try to see how I can improve them.
bundesliga.com: Do you really believe your free-kicks can still become better?
Calhanoglu: Definitely. You can always improve if you keep working hard.
bundesliga.com: Are there any set-piece specialists you tried to learn from when you were younger?
Calhanoglu: Of course, I watched David Beckham and Juninho [Pernambucano] very closely. That helped me develop my shooting technique.
bundesliga.com: Are there free-kick experts in the Bundesliga that you like?
Calhanoglu: Absolutely, there are lots. is a superb free-kick taker, and the same goes for . of Mainz 05 also has a fantastic shot.
bundesliga.com: Leverkusen spent their winter training camp in Florida as Bundesliga World Tour representatives. Were you able to create the foundation for success in the second half of the season whilst you were there?
Calhanoglu: We had a quality time there, the conditions and the pitches were very good. We worked hard and also did rather well in the friendlies, except perhaps for the Florida Cup where we lost one game. If we can maintain the quality of football we showed in the first half of the campaign and become more consistent then I believe we can achieve a lot this season.
'I want to stay at Bayer, also in the years to come'
bundesliga.com: You're currently third in the Bundesliga and still in the thick of things also in the UEFA Champions League and the DFB Cup. What would make 2014/15 a good season?
Calhanoglu: We'd be glad if we could reach the next round in the Champions League [against Club Atletico de Madrid] and reach the DFB Cup final, these are things we all dream of. In the Bundesliga our aim is to be as successful as we can. But it's difficult to tell at this moment of time what we can achieve.
bundesliga.com: Leverkusen are a very young side which can still develop. Do you believe you can compete with Bayern München over the course of a season in the future?
Calhanoglu: It's definitely noticeable that the players are still improving and benefiting from their experiences. The same goes for myself, I'm constantly learning. We'll see whether it'll be enough to be on an equal footing with Bayern one day, but you have to bear in mind that only very few sides in the world can keep up with them at the moment.
bundesliga.com: Are you hoping to remain part of this Bayer side for a long time to come after switching clubs twice in the last two summers?
Calhanoglu: I'm happy here at Bayer Leverkusen. It was my goal to do well with Bayer 04 in the Bundesliga, play in the Champions League and go a long way in the DFB Cup, and it's all become a reality which gives me lots of satisfaction. I'm not wasting any thoughts on moving. I want to stay here, also in the years to come.
bundesliga.com: Did you expect your transition at Bayer to be so smooth?