AC Milan Can Build a New Dynasty Around El Shaarawy

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 27:  Stephan El Shaarawy of AC Milan celebrates scoring the first goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Genoa CFC at San Siro Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Back in August when I collaborated with five other B/R writers on a Serie A preview article, I listed AC Milan second on my ballot and chose Stephan El Shaarawy as Milan's key player for the season.

The Rossoneri will have to make a run of truly epic proportions to fulfill the first of those predictions, but it seems that there is little doubt about the importance of El Shaarawy to the Milanese side.

Much like their San Siro neighbors a year ago, Milan is a team in crisis.  This past summer saw a mass exodus of aging but legendary players like Clarence Seedorf, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta, Mark van Bommel, Filippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso.  To make matters worse, the team's two best players—center-back Thiago Silva and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic—were sold to Paris Saint-Germain for a combined €63 million, and they swapped their other top forward, Antonio Cassano, for Inter's Giampaolo Pazzini.

The result of all this player movement has been a severely underpowered Milan side, particularly at the forward position.  The Rossoneri have only managed nine goals in eight Serie A matches this season, and only three in three games in the UEFA Champions League—and have been shut out in two of them.

Of these twelve goals, seven of them have been scored by El Shaarawy.  The Italian-Egyptian is the greatest hope for Milan in this unhappy season.

El Sha has truly been magnificent in the early going.  He's scored seven goals in all competitions so far this season, and has done so with remarkable efficiency—he's scored his goals while averaging only 3.2 shots per game.  He has begun to shed his reputation as a great forward who sometimes has problems finishing.

The best comparison for Il Faraone, at least in terms of playing style, is Cristiano Ronaldo.  The numbers spell out that, like the Real Madrid man, El Shaarawy's best position is on the left-hand side of the field.  Of his seven goals, six of them have come either as a left-sided forward or attacking midfielder.  His size (only 5'10" tall) doesn't give him much of an advantage when he is faced with holding down the center of the field.

When he's on the left, however, he's turning into Ronaldo Lite.  He is a great dribbler, and loves cutting inside from the wing, both with the ball and without, to create chances.

There are things that he needs to work on.  Despite the fact that he's completed 81% of his passes this season, he has yet to record an assist, and distribution will be a key for him going forward, especially if he plays on the left, where he's most effective.

Much is still ahead for the newly-minted Italy international.  Only 20 years old, there is still a lot of room to develop his tremendous natural talent.  Nor will he, even at the height of his powers, be the only thing Milan needs to recover from the problems that they've suffered through this year.  But in El Shaarawy, the Rossoneri have a key building block in which to again challenge Juventus for the Scudetto, both now and for years to come.


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