Jens Petter Hauge is one of the symbols of the new AC Milan project, and he is having a great season so far. The 21-year-old winger was signed after he had a big game at San Siro... against AC Milan. One goal scored and an excellent performance in the Europa League qualifiers for Bodo/Glimt made the Rossoneri board fall in love with Hauge and they decided to sign him for 4 million euros.
For the rest of this season, however, Hauge will no longer be part of the Rossoneri's Europa League list for numerical reasons. Milan had to include new signings including Mario Mandzukic and Fikayo Tomori, and they had to leave Hauge out of the list. But his talent is not in question. Manager Stefano Pioli always uses him in Serie A and the club strongly believes in him, having also turned down a loan offer in January from Bayer Leverkusen.
CBS Sports interviewed Hauge recently, and he recounted that moment of the opportunity to move to AC Milan.
"I remember the days before the match, I was really focusing and wanted to do well because I know how football works, and a game like this can open doors," said the Norwegian international. "I prepared well and I remember the night before I was talking with my best friend and the captain of the team about how AC Milan is such a big club.
"To play here must be amazing and we talked about how they play and the players they have and we said that it can be possible. I remember we were training in the morning before the match and we had to drive like 40 minutes. I was mad; I just wanted to relax and prepare and we had to drive to the place where the AC Milan youth team plays. We were in the other part of Milano and it was a long drive to get the day going. When I walked into San Siro for the first time, I just looked around and I was really happy. I thought that this could be a good place for me".
Hauge added he will never forget the call from his agents Atta Aneke and Patrick Bastianelli to inform him of AC Milan's intention to buy: "When they called me ... it was a good feeling. I was ready. I just had to play one more game with Bodo and there we go and get things started. At that point I was ready to move on from Norway. I wanted to go abroad and have a new challenge"
And the season with the Rossoneri is going very well. Milan are currently one point behind rival Inter for the top spot in Serie A, and the team will continue its quest to win the Europa League on Thursday in a round of 32 first leg against Red Star Belgrade.
"We are doing good in our league but there are still many more points to fight for, and also in Europa League I think we have the chance to be one of the last teams remaining, I think we can beat them all," he said. "But of course there are some really good teams, especially some English clubs that are really solid".
Among the friends who advised him to accept AC Milan's offer was Erling Haaland, the Norwegian star of Borussia Dortmund. Hauge said Haaland stressed patience in the process.
"Yeah, we talk a lot ... especially in the summer because I almost joined a Belgian club and we were talking," Hauge said. "Haaland agreed that maybe it was better if I turned this offer down and waited for a better one. When we spoke after that match against AC Milan, he told me: "Go for it, it will be good. Playing at AC Milan will be hard of course. You have to work on stuff with the language but I think it will be good.' And now I'm really happy with the choice".
Hauge does not hide the thrill of training and playing alongside a legend like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Hauge said the 39-year-old "raises the bar" on the field, and And he remembers one episode in particular with Ibrahimovic off the field: "I remember I came to the dressing room with a new hat and Zlatan was saying: 'Are you working as a pizza maker or are you playing football?' I like when people are joking! He can help me with the language because we speak almost the same language so we can talk together in another language."
In short, Hauge is really excited about the AC Milan project: "Here you can be around legends like [Paolo] Maldini. He's a legend, not only here in Milan but the whole world. And the manager. Pioli, I think he's a bit similar to the coach I had in Norway in the way he wants to play and what they demand from the players. I'm starting to know what he wants from me with the ball and without the ball too."
You can catch AC Milan and all other Europa League matches on CBS All Access.