For a player who is still just 2, Stephan El Shaarawy’s career has already taken a series of meandering twists and turns.
Following the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Milan in the summer of 2012, the youngster hit a superb patch of form and netted 15 goals in 22 Serie A appearances.
Then, Mario Balotelli arrived from Manchester City. El Shaarawy scored just once more in the 2012-13 campaign – from February onwards – in a throughly frustrating spell.
What followed was an injury-ravaged 2013-14 season for the Italian in which he made just six league appearances. The Rossoneri strolled to an eighth-place finish, with boss Max Allegri fired along the way.
But with Balotelli now gone from San Siro and former striker Pippo Inzaghi at the helm, the current season held the promise of a fresh start for El Shaarawy.
A minor injury and Inzaghi’s preference for the likes of Fernando Torres and Jeremy Menez, however, have held him in reserve. So far, El Shaarawy has made just three appearances for Milan, unable to get on the scoresheet yet.
Club vice-president Paolo Berlusconi weighed in on the forward’s lack of action, saying that whilst he respects Inzaghi’s choices, he would like to see more minutes for El Shaarawy.
Berlusconi told Milan Channel: “El Shaarawy is one of Milan’s stars, I would play him all the time. But rightfully, coach Inzaghi needs to make the team play at its best.”
It’s certainly a frustrating situation for El Shaarawy, who Italian transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio described as a long-term target for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
The Portuguese is said to have co-operated with Milan over the loan of Marco van Ginkel as a goodwill gesture, in hopes that he will have an inside track to El Shaarawy in the future; that despite Chelsea currently possessing arguably the most in-form front-man in Europe.
Mourinho will of course want to see some development from El Shaarawy. But the Italian’s lack of action at Milan at presents begs the question of how long he’ll be willing to stay if not being given the opportunities he arguably deserves.
Berlusconi’s words suggest that management is keen to see him be a leading light at San Siro, though it remains to be seen how Inzaghi will handle the situation.
Reports earlier this week suggested that the former striker is considering dropping Torres for El Shaarawy, who possesses superior upside at this point in his career.
For El Shaarawy to have a future at Milan Inzaghi will have to place trust in him, or risk another club coming in to tempt one of the Rossoneri’s crown jewels to leave.