Here is a complete scouting report of AC Milan's 21-year-old left forward Stephan El Shaarawy.
Well, not right now.
Before scouting El Shaarawy, you need to understand the context behind his footballing career so far.
Nicknamed Il Faraone (The Pharaoh) due to his Egyptian heritage, his precocious talent in the Genoa youth teams led to a Serie A debut as a 16-year-old under then-manager Gian Piero Gasperini.
Yet El Shaarawy would find out the hard way where he stood in the eyes of Gasperini during a 2-1 UEFA Europa League loss to Valencia.
Raffaele Palladino, once Juventus' big hope, injures his knee 30 minutes into the game.
Gasperini is tasked with choosing between the inexperienced El Shaarawy or the experienced Giuseppe Sculli.
Gasperini selects the safe option in veteran Sculli.
Now 82 minutes into the game, Gasperini wants to sub out Alberto Zapater, but instead of throwing caution to the wind by going with El Shaarawy, Sergio Floccari is subbed on.
Three minutes later, David Villa misses a penalty for Valencia.
Gasperini has one substitution remaining and maybe it's time to give El Shaarawy a go? No.
Villa wins the game for Valencia five minutes into stoppage time.
Gasperini probably wonders what could have been after not using the ace up his sleeve in El Shaarawy.
El Shaarawy was selected in Pasquale Salerno's team going into the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The tournament didn't go to plan for the player, however.
"Hard-working attacking midfielder with good technique and vision," the FIFA technical study group wrote for one member of Salerno's squad.
El Shaarawy? Wrong.
It was Federico Carraro, currently playing for Pavia in Italy's third division, who scored twice and created three goals during the tournament.
Coutinho, Heung-Min Son, Isco, Koke, Mario Goetze and Pajtim Kasami were some of the players FIFA identified as outstanding players—El Shaarawy didn't impress FIFA officials.
El Shaarawy's lack of meaningful first-team action at Genoa was hurting him.
Even when he secured a loan deal to Padova, forever linked to Alessandro Del Piero, 14 of El Shaarawy's initial 16 games under then-Padova manager Alessandro Calori were sub-affected.
It was only under rookie manager Alessandro Dal Canto, 36 years of age when he replaced Calori, that El Shaarawy flourished.
He scored seven times in 14 games under Dal Canto, including a brace against Varese.
Matteo Bonetti, the grandson of a former Milan vice-president, recalled how his father responded after one of El Shaarawy's goals against Varese, via Bleacher Report: "I just hope Inter doesn't sign him."
Mr Bonetti's concerns were alleviated when El Shaarawy became a Milanista.
STATISTICALLY COMPARING SES' FIRST AND SECOND MILAN SEASONS
|LEAGUE ONLY||SES 11-12||SES 12-13|
|Shots Per Goal||14.0||6.3|
|Key Passes Per Game||0.5||1.5|
|Successful Pass Completion %||80.2||84.8|
|Dribbles Per Game||0.4||1.2|
|Starter/Impact Sub %||27.3/72.7||91.9/8.1|
According to El Shaarawy, his first season at Milan was soured by the larger-than-life influence of then-star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"To tell you the truth, it was never easy playing with Ibrahimovic," said El Shaarawy, from Max via Alex Mott at Goal.com. "What you needed to do was just pass him the ball, or else he'd scream at you."
Once Ibrahimovic was sold to Paris Saint-Germain, El Shaarawy started 34 of 37 league games.
While he plays a different position to Ibrahimovic, El Shaarawy became the Rossoneri's talisman.
He improved his shooting efficiency (shots per goal; the lower the better) and upped his shots per game from 1.3 to 2.8.
Playing predominantly in a 4-3-3, El Shaarawy was Massimiliano Allegri's best player until the arrival of Mario Balotelli.
IS SUPER MARIO A PROBLEM FOR SES?
Balotelli, who scored one league goal from 34 shots in his last season at Manchester City, turned into one of Serie A's best players in the second half of the season with 12 goals in 13 league games.
In comparison, 15 of El Shaarawy's 16 goals came before the Balotelli signing.
This is why in December, most football aficionados believed El Shaarawy was superior to Balotelli.
Yes, statistically El Shaarawy and Balotelli aren't a match, but the sample size isn't large enough to draw a definitive conclusion.
It's just a coincidence El Shaarawy's form dipped while Balotelli started scoring for fun.
Still not convinced?
Google "Stephan El Shaarawy Mario Balotelli" and it's filled with pictures of the two goofing around.
In an interview with FourFourTwo, El Shaarawy made it clear he liked Balotelli.
"We get along very, very well, on and off the field," said El Shaarawy. "I actually think he makes me better, being very valuable as a player himself. "
Their partnership will work.
El Shaarawy's precise finishing is his primary strength.
If you compare his shooting chart to former Milan player Kevin-Prince Boateng, now with Schalke, it's a tale of one footballer who is composed in front of goal while the other is hoping and shooting.
Now it's not established if El Shaarawy was being tongue-in-cheek, but when asked about his shooting proficiency, he said, via FourFourTwo: "One of my hobbies is pool, a game where you have to be very precise, where every angle counts. I think I get it from playing that."
The one glaring weakness in El Shaarawy's game is his inability to beat players off the dribble on a regular basis.
Last season, he lost possession 119 times from 163 take-ons, which means he had a 73 percent chance of turning the ball over every time he attempted a dribble.
Here are a few El Shaarawy trends.
- Very accurate shooter. His shooting accuracy percentage (66) was still above average even though he failed to score a league goal during the whole of March, April and May.
- Despite having immaculate ball control and being blessed with rapid acceleration, his dribbling in real life does not match up to what he can do on FIFA 14. In reality, he lacks the confidence to consistently beat his marker like Andros Townsend of Tottenham Hotspur.
- Statistically, El Shaarawy is not a great passer (four assists from 37 league games) but subjectively speaking, he can split opposing defences with incisive passes which indicates great vision. "He sees things on the pitch a lot quicker than most others," said Dal Canto, El Shaarawy's manager at Padova, via Football Italia. "I knew that I was dealing with a future champion."
- El Shaarawy is willing to sacrifice for the team, often tracking back and pressing. Does he have the endurance to maintain that off-the-ball playing style for an entirety of a season?
- Struggles to score in big games: three goals in 13 career games against Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus. Other examples include the 3-0 UEFA Champions League defeat to Arsenal and a 2-0 defeat to a Goetze-inspired Germany in the 2009 Euro U-17 semi-finals.
HOW WILL KEISUKE HONDA AFFECT SES?
With Honda joining AC Milan in the January transfer window, per Sports Nippon via Japan Today, Allegri will have to use a 4-2-3-1 to fit Honda in.
This is assuming he won't be given the "Shinji Kagawa" treatment.
Honda will provide El Shaarawy and Balotelli more goal-scoring chances.
Here is what Allegri's front four could look like.
Strong at delivering crosses with a 30 percent cross completion percentage (acceptable average is 25).
Can he consistently create goals cutting in from the right and crossing with his left?
Or will it become too predictable?
Should be an impact sub, but M'Baye Niang hasn't progressed as expected.
A beautiful left-footed passer of the ball who plays his best in the No. 10 position.
What happens to Kaka?
|LAM||SES||World-class in a free-roaming role on the left wing.|
|CF||Balotelli||Has the chance to break the 30-goal barrier this season if he can avoid suspensions.|
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