AC Milan left attacking midfielder Stephan El Shaarawy is waiting patiently as he builds up full fitness, but what does the future hold for him at the Rossoneri?
Don't Rush El Shaarawy Back
Alexandre Pato is a cautionary tale for the Milan medical department to err on the side of caution when deciding if El Shaarawy is fit enough to resume playing duties.
Pato, once a can't-miss prospect for Milan, was plagued by chronic thigh injuries. Even though he was clinically fit to play, he would persistently relapse with a similar muscle injury.
By the end of his Milan tenure, he became an observer on the sidelines as opposed to a match-winner on the field.
"In my view, in the past Pato has been rushed back onto the field too quickly," Brazilian national team doctor Jose Luis Runco said last January, per Adam Digby at ESPN FC. "Or Milan got the treatment for his muscles wrong while he was out of action."
Before Ciro Immobile and Domenico Berardi staked their claim to being the future of the Italian national team, El Shaarawy was a valuable commodity in Italy after scoring 16 goals in Serie A last season.
Milan rushing El Shaarawy back so he can be in the spotlight again is an idea fraught with danger.
Milan are in a rebuilding phase under rookie manager Clarence Seedorf, so the rest of this season is a write-off. Milan are in 11th place, and you know what will further sour an already forgettable season?
El Shaarawy suffering another injury.
Adel Taarabt's Redemption
El Shaarawy has a legitimate contender for his starting spot—Adel Taarabt.
Loaned out to Milan, his first impressions at the club have hushed critics who believed his abrasive, languid, selfish and unproductive performances in the Premier League would make him a failure in Serie A.
Taarabt has scored three times from 18 shots for Milan, and he looks like the QPR Taarabt who dominated the 2010-11 Championship season.
During Milan's 3-1 defeat to Napoli, he intercepted Napoli centre-back Federico Fernandez's pass.
Taarabt proceeded to carry the ball from inside Milan's defensive half deep into Napoli territory before curling the ball past Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
You can tell Taarabt is playing his best football in recent years after another highlight-reel goal in Milan's 2-1 win over Genoa.
Perhaps for the first time in Taarabt's career, he respects the manager in Seedorf, a four-time UEFA Champions League winner as a player, per Matteo Bonetti at Bleacher Report:
The Milan jersey and emblem carry a heavy significance and have to be understood.
Clarence Seedorf is the embodiment of what the Rossoneri stand for and can translate this type of passion and honor to the younger generation.
Even though Milan have stooped to lows that haven't been seen in decades, they have the resources to get back into a more competitive state with players that should be proud of wearing the Milan colors.
If there's anyone that understands this type of sentimentality, it's Seedorf.
Taarabt has made it clear he wants to extend his loan at Milan into a permanent stay.
"Coach Seedorf has shown trust in me and I feel good," Taarabt said, per L'Equipe (h/t Patrick Haond at Sky Sports). "I have four months in which to try and convince the club [Milan] to sign me permanently, because I want to stay here."
If Taarabt continues his performances on the left wing, El Shaarawy will not be walking his way into the starting XI.
El Shaarawy will be aiming to get his career back on track next season while Milan will be striving to be relevant in Serie A again.
Milan management need to focus on the big picture because they cannot be as careless with El Shaarawy as they were with Pato.
Better safe than sorry was the approach Milan should have taken with Pato, and it must be the approach in dealing with El Shaarawy.
Statistics via WhoScored.com