By Andy BarghFollow @JfGpodcasts
Post transfer window in Milan and the attention of the Rossoneri faithful is focused on the departure of talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His replacement, Giampaolo Pazzini, has has struggled since switching allegiances in the summer, but teenager Stephan El Shaarawy has taken on the mantle in spectacular fashion.
The youngster has sent shock waves around Europe with his standout performances in a mediocre Milan side, scoring 5 goals in his last 4 games, even prompting speculation about a move to Manchester United.
Stephan made his Serie A debut for Genoa in December 2008 at a tender 16, becoming the fourth youngest player to play in the league. He only made three appearances in three seasons though, and was loaned out to Serie B side Padova in 2010-11 where he won Serie B Player of the Year, scoring 6 goals. Milan secured his services in the summer of 2011 and has since become a huge part of the set-up.
22 appearances last season aided El Shaarawy’s development, earning him his first cap for the Italian senior team, against England in August. If ‘The Pharaoh’ – nicknamed so because of his Egyptian heritage – can continue his fine performances, especially at a club where the pressure to succeed is massive, then more senior caps will be coming his way.
AC’s transfer activity during the summer, namely the departures of veterans Nesta, Gattuso and Seedorf along with Silva and Ibrahimovic, have forced the Rossoneri to put faith in their youth players, and El Shaarawy has stepped up to the plate.
The forward’s contribution in the early part of the season cannot be underestimated; along with goalkeeper Christian Abbiati, El Shaarawy is the only player to have started every game this season. Galliani’s decision to resist sending him out on loan seems to have paid off; a double at home to Cagliari a week ago secured a much needed 3 points, in between goals against Parma and Udinese (the latter a stunning 30 yard strike). The 19 year old also became AC’s youngest ever scorer in the Champions’ League during the week after his fantastic solo effort against Zenit.
Stephan has extra motivation to do well this season, club captain Massimo Ambrosini has handed the youngster an ultimatum, he said: “I hope that he scores at least 15 goals this season, if he doesn’t then I will cut off his hair. If he scores seven before Christmas, I will pay for his holidays.”
It looks as if the fans’ favourite could be entitled to a free holiday, with only two goals to go before he reaches the target set by Ambrosini.
With his hair looking like it has received a surge of electricity, El Shaarawy has been an electrical surge in a lacklustre Milan side, chasing every ball and giving 100%. He knows that he has made a good impression, but has admitted he is finding it difficult to not get carried away. He said: “You find yourself in the position with fans asking you for photos and autographs, building you up, and you start to feel like a phenomenon, even if you don’t want to. Thank goodness there’s my dad, [he] keeps my feet firmly on the ground.”
“San Siro is a crazy place. It’s like a buffalo breathing on you for 90 minutes. You feel it a lot on the pitch, so you know what I do? Simple: I put my foot down. I go a thousand miles an hour. I chase every ball because at the end of the day this is what the fans want.” He has the clichés down to a tee.