Who is More Important to AC Milan: Mario Balotelli or Stephan El Shaarawy?

Matteo BonettiContributor IDecember 29, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 03:  Mario Balotelli of AC Milan celebrates with his team-mate Stephan El Shaarawy after scoring during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Udinese Calcio at San Siro Stadium on February 3, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Mario Balotelli has emerged as the most important player for AC Milan, surpassing El Shaarawy, who is out for the next 10 weeks after undergoing foot surgery.

Once thought to be the future of Milan's attack for the next decade, the duo of Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy has never materialized since Super Mario's move last January to the San Siro.

The few times that the duo did get on the field together, they were unable to recreate the magic that we've seen from them individually.

El Shaarawy has had an atrocious 2013 calendar year, battling various injuries and inconsistent play time both with Milan and the Italian national team.

Balotelli and El Shaarawy are good friends off the field as well
Balotelli and El Shaarawy are good friends off the field as wellClaudio Villa/Getty Images

As a matter of fact, Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli preferred Emanuele Giaccherini over Il Faraone in the Confederations Cup in Brazil—a telltale sign of just how grim El Shaarawy's chances will be once the World Cup rears its beautiful face.

El Shaarawy and Balotelli were supposed to be Italy's attack going into the 2014 World Cup
El Shaarawy and Balotelli were supposed to be Italy's attack going into the 2014 World CupClaudio Villa/Getty Images

Domestically, El Shaarawy burst on the scene after scoring 14 goals in nearly as many games in the first half of last season. Unfortunately, various circumstances led to his dramatic downfall, which has seen him only score a handful of goals in the entire 2013 year.

One could say that Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri is part responsible, as he was adamant in turning El Shaarawy into a faux-full-back who would be assigned to help out on defensive duties throughout the game to help out the maligned Kevin Constant at left-back.

This incredible workload, doubled with the fact that El Shaarawy played every game from the first minute, led to his body effectively shutting down, as it couldn't handle such vigorous requirements.

On top of that, it could be argued that all of the energy he exerted on the defensive end made him less lucid when given the opportunity in front of goal, and Stephan became visibly drained as this calendar year opened.

Balotelli, on the other hand, picked up right where El Shaarawy left off, scoring 12 goals in his first 13 matches for Milan in Serie A. 

This season, he has seemingly improved his long-distance shooting as well as his free kick taking abilities, which have made him one of the most feared strikers from outside the penalty box.

This type of clinical finishing along with his underrated vision and creativity has made Mario Balotelli by far the most important component of Milan's offense. While his future remains unclear as he's always one idiotic foul away from getting suspended for several matches, it's easy to see that Balotelli is the only true world-class player on the Rossoneri team sheet.

Now that Milan have signed Keisuke Honda, it's expected that the team switches to a 4-3-2-1 formation, with the Japanese playmaker and Kaka slotting behind Mario Balotelli. While this is a salivating combination on paper, it also leaves out Stephan El Shaarawy.

If we are to believe the rumors that Cesare Prandelli is in line for the Milan head coaching position, it wouldn't be shocking to see El Shaarawy sold or be sent off on loan as the team prepares itself for life after Allegri.