5 Forwards for AC Milan to Pair with El Shaarawy Instead of Mario Balotelli
After a difficult 2013-14, Stephan El Shaarawy needs a positive season for Milan—and the Rossoneri need him.
The 21-year-old forward is one of Italy's brightest hopes for the future, so getting the most out of him and finding him the right strike partner should be top of new manager Pippo Inzaghi's concerns.
Mario Balotelli's future at the San Siro remains uncertain, and there are many who believe that his style of play and his personality are unsuited to getting the best out of his friend El Shaarawy anyway. With that in mind, and with Balo continuing to frustrate with his off-field antics and his inconsistent form, it might be time for Milan to consider other options upfront.
Once considered to be among Serie A's most exciting young prospects, M’Baye Niang's development has stuttered, and after a loan last season to Montpellier in Ligue 1, most expected the forward to be on his way out of the San Siro this summer.
The latest from the Gazzetta dello Sport (reported here in Italian on tuttomercatoweb.com) is that new boss Inzaghi is willing to give the 19-year-old another chance to impress before showing him the door.
Like Balotelli, Niang can be troublesome away from the pitch, but his talent is clear, and if Inzaghi can reel in his irresponsible side, Milan could have a world-class forward on their hands.
It now seems like a long time since Niang burst onto the scene by scoring his first goal for the Rossoneri aged just 17 in a 3-0 Coppa Italia win against Reggina. He's not as explosive a player as Balo, but he's got all of the control, pace and creativity to succeed at the highest level and become the perfect foil for another pacey forward like El Shaarawy.
Giampaolo Pazzini is another obvious choice because he's already on the books at Milan. It was a season to forget last term for the 29-year-old Italian, but he's a proven Serie A goalscorer, and his more selfless style could suit El Shaarawy perfectly.
Pazzini was at his best at Sampdoria, where he formed an excellent partnership with Antonio Cassano. If Inzaghi can nurture a similar understanding between his forwards next season, there could be goals aplenty at the San Siro.
The Daily Mail's Simon Jones reports that Inter are in the running to sign Stevan Jovetic from Manchester City, but if Milan could scupper the deal, the Montenegro forward would make an exciting addition to the Rossoneri line-up next season.
Jovetic is way down the pecking order in Manchester, and at 24, he cannot afford to wait much longer for a regular role if he's to reach his full potential.
The former Fiorentina forward used to regularly link-up with the likes of Adem Ljajic and Borja Valero while playing for the Viola, holding up the play or dropping back to allow his teammates to attack the space he created. It doesn't take too much of an imagination to see how potentially devastating partnering a player like that with the electric El Shaarawy could be.
After a fine season at Torino, Alessio Cerci is one of Serie A's hottest properties. The former Roma star was the only player in the league to record double figures in both goals and assists. It's very tempting to think what he could do on the opposite flank to El Shaarawy, playing off and supplying a proper centre-forward.
Reports in Italy suggest that Milan are on the move for the winger, with the Italian daily La Stampa (subscription required) reporting that the clubs are already in talks.
La Stampa claims that Milan have offered €15m for Cerci. Torino want €20m. @ale_cerci_7— AC Milan News (@Milanello) July 7, 2014
Real Sociedad's tricky dribbler Antoine Griezmann would be another exciting addition, and at 23, he should only get better. The Frenchman can still improve, but with 179 league appearances for his Spanish side, he's already a proven performer.
Like El Shaarawy, he usually plays on the left, but Inzaghi could decide to move one of the pair into a more central role, as both are capable of playing in a more advanced position.