Keys for Stephan El Shaarawy to Make a Strong Comeback
The most important addition to AC Milan will not be a new signing but the man they were missing all of last season.
Without Stephan El Shaarawy, the Rossoneri lacked the pace and zip to challenge their opponents and leave them guessing.
On his return to the lineup in May against Atalanta, it was the 21-year-old who skipped past midfielders and defenders, flying around the pitch. He was the main player creating, running and distributing.
El Shaarawy came bursting in his debut year, scoring 15 goals in the first half of the 2012-13 season. He has since struggled with muscle strains, also undergoing a foot surgery. He played only seven matches for Milan last season.
There is no guarantee of success next campaign but here are four things El Shaarawy can do to make a strong comeback in 2014-15.
Pre-Season Training an Crucial Step
El Shaarawy tried his best to make the Italy squad for the World Cup. Coach Cesare Prandelli selected him to take part in physical tests, but that was the extent of his participation with the Azzurri.
Fitness is an issue, and the games in the United States at the end of July offer a perfect opportunity for him to push himself. Several of his teammates are playing in Brazil meaning El Shaarawy should have the chance to start each of those friendlies against Olympiacos, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Getting an Early Goal
The beginning of the season is crucial for El Shaarawy. He hasn’t scored for Milan since February 24, 2013, in the derby against Inter. It is a spell he needs to break as quickly as possible.
Many questioned whether he could play together with Mario Balotelli. Whether Balotelli is even playing for Milan at the start of the season is question all its own but the two are friends off the pitch, they don't have much time to waste.
Patience is not abundant in Milan—no one player appears to be safe at the moment.
Focus Is Necessary
At first, El Shaarawy thought it was easy to resist all the temptations of newfound fame. He has the spiky Mohawk and girls chasing him.
In 2012, via Football Italia, El Shaarawy went on the record saying:
Then fans find us and ask for photos and autographs and you feel pumped up, even if you don’t want to. You arrive in Serie A and instantly the attention is multiplied around you. Luckily my father helps keep my feet on the ground.
El Shaarawy is Milan’s youngest ever goalscorer in the Champions League and he scored his first goal for Italy in his third appearance. The Italian already has sponsorship deals with Nike and joined Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at Samsung.
Things happened quickly, so he must keeping working.
Important to Play His Natural Position
In 2012-13, his first full season as a starter, El Shaarawy was used as cover for Kevin Constant, the lumbering left-back who left a lot of players open. “I work hard in attack and defence," El Shaarawy told the Milan Channel (h/t Football Italia). He was misused by coach Max Allegri and El Shaarawy suffered in the latter parts of that season.
Pippo Inzaghi—should he officially replace Clarence Seedorf as manager of Milan—must play El Shaarawy on the left wing and allow him the freedom to attack at will.
The young Egyptian-Italian is wasted as a de facto left-back. He is at his best when he is serving his strikers and running at defences.