Would Stephan El Shaarawy Be the Ideal January Purchase for Liverpool?

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 7, 2013

EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS - AUGUST 20:  Stephan El Shaarawy of AC Milan looks on during the UEFA Champions League Play-off First Leg match between PSV Eindhoven and AC Milan at PSV Stadion on August 20, 2013 in Eindhoven, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Corriere dello Sport, via Inside Futbol, are reporting that Stephan El Shaarawy is no longer an untouchable prospect in the ranks of Milan.

The Rossoneri have long cherished him as a star asset and refused to negotiate with any potential buyers, but after totting up just a single start for the club this year, they appear to have finally lost patience.

According to FIFA, the Italian international sustained a micro-fracture in his fourth metatarsal in his left foot just days after recovering from a troublesome muscular injury.

It's one of many sources of frustration for Massimiliano Allegri this season, as perhaps no other club has been decimated by ailments quite like Milan. As a result, they've been woeful this season and lay in 11th place in Serie A—a whopping 16 points off the third and final UEFA Champions League qualification spot.

Understandably, they're looking to reinforce, en masse, this winter, and the club's been known to fund recruitment sprees using the sale of a key player or two.


Scouting El Shaarawy

Jack Watson of The Daily Star has reported a host of Premier League clubs hold interest in El Shaarawy's stock, and there could well be a scrap for the former Genoa product's signature should he truly be thrust on to the market.

Chief among those linked to "SES" is Liverpool, which despite heavy investment this summer find themselves in need of bolstering this winter.

El Shaarawy, still just 21, is arguably one of the most exciting talents in Europe when in full flow. He's plied his trade largely as a left forward in Milan's 4-3-3 since entering the first-team fold, although he originally appeared to be the next big No. 10 when he was a considerably younger, unpolished prospect.

El Shaarawy (92)
El Shaarawy (92)

He works extremely hard to cover as much ground as possible, subscribing admirably to his defensive duties. Not only does his doubling up with his full-back help to defend against attacks, but it also allows him the chance to explode into space from deep—utilising his blistering speed, agility and dribbling ability.

His 2012-13 season was prolific, bagging 16 goals and four assists from 34 starts for Milan, but much of his better work was carried out alongside Giampaolo Pazzini rather than January addition Mario Balotelli.

Milan's loss to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League highlighted the (understandable) holes in his game, as against top-tier opposition, his decision-making process can falter a little. Domestically, he put Allegri's side on his back and carried them at times.


Ideal fit?

Brendan Rodgers will see an El Shaarawy as a first-team calibre player in need of little fine-tuning.

Whether he fits at Liverpool, though, is a question that can only be answered once the Reds settle on a full-time formation. In Rodgers' hybrid 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 or base-level 4-3-3, he'd fit magnificently, but in a 3-5-2/3-4-1-2, he wouldn't offer anything the club don't already have.

He'll cost upwards of £15 million and that's not the sort of price you pay for a back-up centre-forward. If SES joins Liverpool this winter, expect a permanent switch back to a four-man defence with a world-class prospect playing left forward.

But if the Reds only sign one player in January, it cannot be El Shaarawy; help at central midfield is critical if they wish to breach the top four, and a top-class defensive midfielder should be much higher on Rodgers' list than a luxury attacking option.