Leverkusen - One of European football's most exciting young talents, Bayer 04 Leverkusen playmaker has left an indelible mark on German football having shown off some remarkable set-piece skills in his 18 months in the top flight - including a 40-metre stunner against Saturday's opponents Borussia Dortmund.
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.
'You do feel a bit of pressure'
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.
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.
'I want to stay at Bayer, also in the years to come'
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.
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?