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The Rossoneri have endured a tough start to the 2012-13 campaign, but the 20-year-old believes that they will recover and become a force to be reckoned with once more

EXCLUSIVE
By Claas Philipp

Former AC Milan midfielder Alexander Merkel is adamant that the Rossoneri will recover from their difficult start to the season and establish themselves as an elite club once more.

Massimiliano Allegri's side struggled in the opening months of the current campaign after the departure of a number of key players, but have been in slightly better form of late, rising to seventh in Serie A and reaching the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

"Milan are a great club. But they had to cope with the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Antonio Cassano," he told Goal.com.

"That's not easy - they're absolute stars. Moreover, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta left the club. I think it will take time until the new players have integrated.

"But I'm confident that Milan will soon be successful."

Merkel has had two spells at San Siro, and said that he learned different things from the stars with whom he trained at the club.

"It's hard to say [who I learned most from]. Each star has his own ways. You cannot compare Ibrahimovic with Gattuso; Gattuso with Ronaldinho.

"For example, Ronaldinho does not have the aggression of Gattuso. But you could learn a lot from players like Andrea Pirlo.

"They were incredible on the ball, had impressive leadership qualities. Nobody was arrogant. Everybody was friendly and down to earth. That impressed me."

The Rossoneri take on Zenit St Petersburg in their final Champions League group-stage fixture on Tuesday night and Merkel, who is of Russian descent, has revealed that he will be happy with whoever wins.

"I'll be watching the game on TV. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for both teams. Milan are my former club and I follow Zenit because of my Russian roots. I hope they make it into the Europa League.

Now at Genoa, the 20-year-old has had a difficult time finding first-team opportunities, but is intent on leaving a mark on the club rather than making a move to either Zenit or a return to Milan.

"Of course I am honoured to hear a rumour that a club as big as Zenit are interested in me. But my agent will take care of such matters. I'll handle sport.

"I'm going to give my all to assert myself at Genoa. Let's see what happens. Right now, my thoughts are with Genoa.

"I'm very happy at Genoa. I feel comfortable here. Of course I'll never forget [Milan]. It was an important time for me, but that chapter is closed."

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