AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli is set to undergo a medical ahead of signing for Liverpool, per the BBC. Now the Rossoneri have to search for a replacement, with Jackson Martinez being one of the favourites, according to Sky Italia (h/t Football Italia).
However, this move is going to heavily affect Stephan El Shaarawy, who has suffered several injuries. Prior to Balotelli's arrival, El Shaarawy scored 15 league goals in 22 appearances in all competitions. The striker was Serie A's leading scorer before Edinson Cavani overtook the Italian at the end of the 2012/13 season.
Once Balotelli arrived, El Shaarawy's scoring streak slowed down. The latter had just one goal in his final 15 games. It was clear that the Pharaoh's new teammate was hindering his development and confidence.
Former AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri had to tinker with his system in order to accommodate Balotelli, which meant that El Shaarawy had to contribute defensively a lot more than in the first half of the season.
Now that Balotelli is on his way out of the club, that will allow a fresh El Shaarawy to reclaim his throne. His injury problems are apparently behind him, and with a coach who should encourage youth like Filippo Inzaghi, the 21-year-old is set to lead Milan again.
The only issue is that expectations will be significantly higher compared to 2012/13. A lot of Milan supporters weren't expecting El Shaarawy to break out and become the face of the club. Now that fans know what he is capable of, his performances will be more scrutinized if he doesn't deliver.
Regardless of those worries, El Shaarawy is raring to go ahead of the new season. He told Milannews.it (h/t Forza Italian Football) that the whole team is looking for redemption this year.
There is a strong desire for redemption from all my teammates because last season was not the best.
We are all hungry and we want to start the season well and we’re working hard in the pre-season to achieve something next season. There is every reason to have a good season.
The 4-3-3 formation is something that I prefer and I can feel the confidence of Mister Inzaghi with this approach. We are still at the beginning and working on the right mechanisms.
We need to work well from game to game. This year we will focus only on Serie A and we hope to do well. My goal is to get back in the reckoning for the national team, but first, there’s Milan and I hope to do well this term.
The 4-3-3 system that El Shaarawy mentioned is crucial to his future. That was what Allegri deployed prior to Balotelli signing with Milan. That gave El Shaarawy a lot of freedom to cut inside or to exploit the flank. That's what made him so lethal for the first few months of the 2012/13 campaign.
El Shaarawy should have those same opportunities under Inzaghi, and if a new striker can be acquired, that will only help the youngster. If he can regain that form from a couple of years ago, that could open the door for a return to the Italian national team.
Manager Antonio Conte would be very pleased to have someone with El Shaarawy's attributes in future Italy squads.
It might be a rough start for El Shaarawy as his injuries kept him out for most of last season. However, once he finds his footing and gains his confidence, only he can slow down his rise to fame.