Stephan El Shaarawy: Why Milan Should Fight to Keep Il Faraone

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Stephan El Shaarawy: Why Milan Should Fight to Keep Il Faraone
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Stephan El Shaarawy appeared to burn out during the climax of last season after having started it in prolific form.

It could just be that the 20-year-old suffered from fatigue in a season during which he was burdened with the goal-scoring responsibility of one of Italy's biggest clubs.

Some critics pointed to the signing of Mario Balotelli as a sign that the two players are not compatible and that Milan will ultimately have to choose between them.

Should the Rossoneri decide to cash in on one of Italy's brightest young talents, there will be no shortage of takers, with reports already suggesting that clubs are beginning to make enquiries.

Napoli had a €30 million bid rejected in January and could reignite their interest in order to replace Edinson Cavani, while more competition could come from Monaco and Manchester City (per Daily Star), as well as Real Madrid, according to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport (via Spanish newspaper AS).

Milan, in a time when Juventus are going from strength to strength—with Carlos Tevez arriving in Turin from Manchester City—must resist all attempts to prize away their best young prospect.

The Rossoneri are the most decorated club in the world. While there was a case for selling players such as Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka when they were both arguably past their peak, a sale of a player such as El Shaarawywho can contribute now and is still many years away from his best—would be unacceptable for a club of their stature.

Debate as to whether El Shaarawy was compatible in the long term with Milan began when Balotelli arrived, even though Massiiliano Allegri was using the same formation that brought such sensational form in the opening months of the season.

From a left-wing berth, El Shaarawy ripped apart every Serie A right-back in sight. But once Balotelli arrived, the service began to dry up somewhat. No longer would Riccardo Montolivo immediately look to send the ball to the left wing when there was the option of feeding the ball into the feet of Balotelli or in behind for him to chase.

Now that Allegri has been confirmed as the club's coach for the coming season, it is widely known that he is expected to alter the team's tactics, which will clearly change the effectiveness of El Shaarawy.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Moving to a system with two centre-forwards will remove the role that he became so accustomed to last season and further intensify the pressure on him to develop a relationship with Balotelli through the middle.

Giampaolo Pazzini impressed whenever afforded the opportunities last season. A role through the middle with a strike partner like Balotelli would perfectly suit the 28-year-old, increasing competition for places. This would remove the first-team assurances that El Shaarawy enjoyed last season.

At such a premature stage in his career, it is inevitable that El Shaarawy's form will fluctuate, and it is unknown as to how the player will react to being frozen out of the starting lineup should he experience an inconsistent spell.

Considering all of this, selling should not be an option for Milan—at least not at this moment. It is highly unlikely that a player with such outrageous ability will suffer a dip in form long enough that his price will decrease.

On a long-term contract that will run until 2018, El Shaarawy's price should only increase with more experience and more opportunities to shine in the Champions League and next year's World Cup.

With more time to develop different parts of his game, we can expect El Shaarawy to blossom into a complete player over the coming years, which will make him a more attractive proposition for the same clubs that are showing interest in him currently.

El Shaarawy might not enjoy the fact that he will need to consistently impress to hold down his place in the first team, but this is not something that Milan should worry about. The very best players will always react to such a challenge and come through it and be a better player because of it.

Milan have proven that they are not able to match the biggest spenders in the market at this moment, so to sell a player of El Shaarawy's quality would pose the dilemma of how to replace him. While the player is yet to fully develop into the player he can become, he is at an advanced enough stage that Milan would be incapable of replacing his quality without spending upwards of €20 million.

When there are many other areas of the side that need addressing—such as a centre-back and a creative midfielder—it would be madness to sell El Shaarawy and give themselves another area in the team that needs to be strengthened in order to return Milan to the pinnacle of European football.

For now, it will benefit all concerned for El Shaarawy to remain in Milan. Even if the club and the player's representatives stand to make a huge financial gain from his sale, such financial opportunities will not go away.

El Shaarawy needs to focus on replicating the form of last season. With Milan, he can fulfill everything he wants to achieve in the game.

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