For all the doom and gloom surrounding the red half of Milan this season—something unlikely to have been lifted by yesterday's defeat to city rivals Inter in the Derby della Madonnina—the one shining light has been the emergence of Stephan El Shaarawy as a bona fide first team player.
With positives thin on the ground for the Rossoneri at the moment, we look at 10 reasons for Milan fans to be very positive about Il Faraone (The Pharaoh).
At just 19 years, 11 months and, at time of writing, 8 days, the greatest asset El Shaarawy possesses is his age. Or lack thereof.
Any mistakes he makes at this stage of his career can but put down to youthful exuberance or insufficient experience, whereas every goal or piece of skill is just evidence of his huge potential.
As an asset to the club, this is also the case. At a time where balancing the books is of prime importance in European football, having young players like El Shaarawy and Alexandre Pato is actually financially preferable to owning, say, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andrea Pirlo.
As a caveat to this, it should be noted that the aforementioned Pato showed similar promise at 19 and is yet to flourish as a senior player. Milan will be hoping the young Italian's upward curve continues, as opposed to the Brazilian's which has flattened out.
But, if he can avoid the injuries that have beset Pato, there is no reason to assume that El Shaarawy cannot become a fixture in the Milan side.
You can't teach pace, as they say. You either have it or you don't. And Stephan El Shaarawy has it in spades.
As is evidenced in the above video, the way El Shaarawy strode away from a succession of Zenit players in last week's Champions League victory was a joy to watch. Moreover, the relative ease with which he did so will bring back memories of Kaka.
Celebrating another goal
A lot of young players show promise, but getting them to take their chances in top-level football is often the barrier between potential and major success.
Prior to the derby, El Shaarawy had scored five goals in his last four games. This is a record, AC Milan's website were quick to point out, that not even Zlatan Ibrahimovic managed for the Rossneri. The Swede did score in four consecutive matches, but only tallied four goals, two of which were penalties.
So El Shaarawy's ability to find the net at this early stage of his career is impressive. Logic would tell us he will only get better in this regard, as time, experience and confidence play their parts.
El Shaarawy can be deadly through the centre and many would suggest that this is where his future lies in a Milan side who now lack the clear focal point up front that Ibrahimovic gave them.
But the 19 year old can also play in wide positions, with former coach Alessandro Dal Canto saying : "His best role? I think that he prefers to start wide on the left in attack." (via Footbal Italia)
As Milan try to find the best way to accommodate the players they now have following the summer's reshuffle, the ability to adapt to any system is a big plus point for El Shaarawy.
It may seem irrelevant in today's game—with teams unlimited in the number of EU players they can field and a long-lost grandmother from Europe usually popping up for those from elsewhere—but home-grown players still have some benefits.
Players like Carlos Tevez have had numerous issues trying to fit in to a foreign climate and culture, and there's a long history of Spanish failures in Serie A. Paul Gascoigne's infamous belch didn't go over quite as well in Rome as it might have done on Tyneside, and even future greats like Matthias Sammer failed to fit in to the Italian style.
So being completely at ease with the climate in which you ply your trade still has distinct benefits.
While "The Pharaoh"'s name may owe more to his Egyptian father, El Shaaraway was born in Savona to an Italian mother and is as Italian as torta di mele. It's a small point but, particularly in the formative stage of a player's career, these small things make the difference.
If El Shaarawy hadn't become a footballer, he may have found gainful employment as a skier, such are his slalom-like abilities.
In the video we see his contribution in just one of this season's games: the crucial victory over Cagliari at the San Siro. In this game alone there is evidence of skills "Tomba la Bomba" would have been proud of (0:08 is a prime example).
Coupled with his pace, these two are an irresistible combination and make El Shaarawy the type of player who can terrorise a defence.
To many Milan fans, what's been lacking at the San Siro since Il Diavolo last tasted European glory, are players that give their all and a team that fights for victories.
It was clear in the drubbing they got home and away to Manchester United in 2010—just three years after having taken the other Red Devils apart at the San Siro—that having three strikers who are unwilling to track back is not a luxury they can afford.
In contrast, club Vice-President Adriano Galliani said this of Milan's new star: “I like El Shaarawy because he runs like a madman. It is that dedication that warrants the jersey.” (via soccernews.com).
It is a sentiment that many of the faithful would echo.
One criticism that has been leveled at El Shaarawy is a lack of strength. This is often the deficiency of the younger player, and at 19, it is fair to say that El Shaarawy could stand to add some hardiness to his physique.
But importantly, it appears to be an area he is already improving.
With players who are not yet the finished article, one of the most important aspects is the ability to address the weaknesses in their game. The game against Cagliari was one that also demonstrated El Shaarawy's increased resolve in this area and this will be key if he is to fill-in where Ibrahimovic's immense strength is sorely missed.
At only 5' 10'', El Shaarawy is not the biggest player, but he's shown willingness to make up for this by improving his strength.
Having already been included in the more experimental team that faced England in August, it's encouraging news for El Shaarawy that he looks set to also be included in the squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Armenia and Denmark.
It's unlikely that the Milan player will start the game but just being included will be a boost. Not only will his confidence by buoyed by Prandelli's faith in him, but being able to rub shoulders with the national elite can only be a positive influence on a young player.
It also reinforces how far he has come in a relatively short time.
Not a lot of room with the giant Swede still there
All the reasons already mentioned go to show why El Shaarawy can be, and already is beginning to be, a top player. But the reason why he may be a huge star for Milan is that it appears he will be given the opportunity to be.
How many promising young players have been part of a huge Milan squad, never got a look in, and went on to be world-class elsewhere? Just think of people like Patrick Viera or, more recently, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, neither of whom were given time to show their worth.
The difference for El Shaarawy is that, whether by transfer or retirement, so many big name players left the Rosseneri in the summer, . Milan now look for new heroes and, so far at least, Stephan El Shaarawy is grabbing his opportunity with both hands.