The midfielder joined Milan from Fiorentina last summer on a free transfer and has quickly become an integral part of coach Massimiliano Allegri's plans.
Montolivo believes that he is finding top form after a slow start, much like Milan, who have fought back to challenge for a Champions League place.
He told Il Corriere dello Sport: "I certainly was convinced that I'd do well here and prove myself at a big club, but it was difficult to predict settling in so well and so quickly.
"I was coming off a good Euro 2012, but I do tend to need a few months to get into peak physical shape. I chose Milan because I finally want to win something in my career. From the first day I arrived here, I started to learn from the more experienced players what it means to be part of a great club for such a long time.
"At the moment I am taking Andrea Pirlo's role in tactical terms, although I am prepared to play in any midfield position apart from trequartista. My reference points are Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Daniele De Rossi, as they can defend and attack so well. They are total midfielders."