AC Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy has returned to Italy with a determination to get his career back on track, via an initial loan stint with Serie A rivals AS Roma.
Previously heralded attacker El Shaarawy has witnessed his own star descend remarkably over recent years, due in part to a series of foot problems that required surgery in late 2013.
The 2012-13 season proved to be far and away his best yet, when the former Genoa youth product struck 16 goals in 37 league appearances for the Rossoneri, whilst providing four assists.
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He also featured in advertisements for the FIFA video game, alongside a player he has often been likened to in Lionel Messi, which only served to heap further expectation upon his young shoulders.
However, when injuries began to take their toll, his performances dipped alarmingly to the point where he no longer figured in Milan’s future plans.
El Shaarawy joined principality outfit Monaco on loan at the beginning of this term in a bid to regain optimum form and fitness, but also with one eye on a long-term move to the Ligue 1 club.
The winger-cum-forward had a deal put in place whereby his contract would automatically become permanent, should he complete 25 appearances for Les Rouges et Blancs.
Unfortunately, he failed to deliver in line with expectations, with his only goals – three of them – arriving in European competition. He didn’t notch at all during seven league starts and eight sub outings.
Hence, he was left out of the side just one short of the magic number of appearances stipulated within his loan agreement.
Stranded and seemingly unwanted by neither Monaco nor parent club Milan, the 23-year-old Italian international was forced to look elsewhere for his next opportunity – or risk a frustrating five-month spell on the sidelines.
That outstanding 2012-13 campaign showcased El Shaarawy’s abundant potential for development into a top-drawer footballer, which is miles away from being fulfilled.
Inconsistent AC Milan may not have found any need for their one-time star pupil this season, but that prior example of his talent hasn’t been forgotten elsewhere in Serie A.
And, with Euro 2016 on the horizon, the player himself set his sights firmly on a return to his homeland – ideally at a club where he would be afforded ample game-time.
Former side Genoa were repeatedly mentioned as a possible destination, but there was no contest once title hopefuls Roma came calling for his services.
Returning coach Luciano Spalletti has only been in charge at the Stadio Olimpico since mid-January after taking over from Rudi Garcia, and has subsequently found it difficult to implement his attacking style of play so early within his second reign in the Eternal City.
However, his initial £1.07 million [€1.4m] loan signing of El Shaarawy – with an option to buy for a reported £9.8 million [€13m] fee this summer – should provide a suitable outlet for him to turn the tide from the defensive outlook of his opening matches at the helm.
It’ll be interesting to see if ‘Il Faraone’ [The Pharoah] can utilise his best-known traits of pace, dribbling skill and an acute eye for goal to accomplish a career renaissance whilst employed in the Italian capital.
El Shaarawy likes cutting inside from the left wing in order to unleash powerful shots on goal or instigate nifty one-twos with team-mates, which quickly added another dimension to Roma’s previously lethargic-looking forward line on his debut against Frosinone.
A stunning back-heeled ‘scorpion kick’ finish helped the Giallorossi to a 3-1 home win against their local rivals, which could yet breathe new life into their campaign.
New boss Spalletti will certainly offer him the opportunities he craves to prove himself all over again in Italy’s top-flight – it’s now all down to the ex-Milan man to grab this potential last chance with both hands.
Can El Shaarawy gain a spot in Italy's Euro 2016 squad? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!