In preparation for Super Bowl LVIII, Hakan Çalhanoğlu channelled his inner Patrick Mahomes for Inter as they took a massive step towards the Scudetto, beating main title rivals Juventus 1–0 at the San Siro.
Twenty-four minutes in, Federico Acerbi (Freddie Immature, in English) steps out of defence and feeds the ball into Lautaro Martinez’s feet. Martinez pops it back to Barella, who snaps it back to Çalhanoğlu in the pocket.
What follows is the most glorious, accurate, absolutely dripping in honey, long-range through ball we’ve ever seen.
The Juve players are understandably lulled into a false sense of security. Çalhanoğlu is well in his own half and there is zero danger of anything bad happening in a logical world. But Çalhanoğlu doesn’t live in a logical world.
Çalhanoğlu doesn’t see the world the way others see the world.
You know how some animals can see ultraviolet light, and it helps them find nectar and whatnot in the visual cacophony of the rainforest? That has to be how the Turkish midfielder sees the world, and Federico Dimarco’s peroxide semi-monk cut must have been positively glowing in his line of vision, because there’s no other explanation for how he picked him out amidst the crowd.
If you freeze the clip just as Çalhanoğlu is about to hit the ball, you get a glimpse into his vision. What initially looks like a packed, if slightly disjointed, midfield actually presents the 29-year-old with a perfect diagonal corridor to ping the ball through. It’s really satisfying to look at.
What’s impressive, though, is that Çalhanoğlu knows this is going to happen before he receives the ball—you can see him getting his head up and calculating the geometrics of it.
He’s already seen Dimarco’s run, and he controls the ball and sets himself for the pass using the studs of his boots—exactly how you’re trained not to as a child, but the rules don’t apply to Hakan—and he executes the pass without a second thought, taking nine Juve players completely out of the game. The weight of it, the fade, the timing, the accuracy. Chef’s kissing their fingers all over Italy.
Here’s Hakan Calhanoglu with one of the most satisfying passes you’ll ever see pic.twitter.com/WmmYLIKnpi
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) February 4, 2024
Whoever makes those YouTube compilations set to unnecessarily intense EDM music must have been close to a heart attack. ALL HANDS ON DECK! ROLL OUT THAT 41-METRE FREE KICK FOR HAMBURG! HAKAN’S DONE ANOTHER MADNESS!
It’s a crime that Inter didn’t score from it, with Bremer producing a moment of brilliance to deny the Nerazzurri.
People remember goals. But then, this is Italy, and Italy loves a defender. Maybe this was the most Italian five seconds of football ever. Something almost divine, stopped by a heroic piece of defending. È stato bellissimo, è stato perfetto.
There are people out there—respected people—making bold claims about Çalhanoğlu. Roma legend and current Turkey coach Vincenzo Montella said that Çalhanoğlu is “perhaps the best [midfielder] in the world”.
Less than two weeks ago, Leonardo Bonucci similarly claimed, “He’s one of the best midfielders in the world at the moment.” And the only person with more confidence in Çalhanoğlu’s abilities than these guys, is Çalhanoğlu himself.
Last year, he told La Gazzetta dello Sport, and we quote: “In my role, I see myself among the top five in Europe. I say this with humility, but awareness.” He went on, “I’m not far from De Bruyne or Modric.”
You have to respect that level of confidence. He did also once edit himself into that famous image of Marco Materazzi and Rui Costa, taking Rui Costa’s place, soaking in the flares and pyros. That was quite unhinged. He also once posted an image of him in both Milan kits before the Derby della Madonnina. That was probably ill-advised.
But if you’re going to be the best, or even in the top five in your role, you’ve got to have something a bit different going on inside your cranium, don’t you?
Inter won the game through an own goal from Federico Gatti (Freddie Cats), despite a couple of highlight-reel saves from Wojciech Tomasz Szczęsny (FIRE UP THE INTENSE EDM!), but whatever.
If you need us, we’ll have that Hakan pass on loop for the rest of the day.
By Andrew Martin