Stephan El Shaarawy: The AC Milan Pharaoh On Arsenal's Radar

Quick feet, jinking runs, and ringing endorsements from all his AC Milan colleagues. No wonder Arsenal are reportedly lining up a bid. Here's everything you need to know.
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Quick feet, jinking runs, and ringing endorsements from all his AC Milan colleagues. No wonder Arsenal are reportedly lining up a bid. Here's everything you need to know.

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Quick feet, jinking runs, and ringing endorsements from all his AC Milan colleagues. No wonder Arsenal are reportedly lining up a bid. Here's everything you need to know.

He is one of the new, emerging generation of Italian talent and at 19, Stephan El Shaarawy has broken into the star-studded AC Milan first team in spectacular fashion.

Coming through the Genoa youth ranks, the teenager who was born in Savona to an Egyptian father and Italian mother, spent last season with Serie B side Padova; his launching pad into the big-time – and where he was named player of the year in that division.

Being snapped up by Milan may have come as a surprise, but it was also a dream come true as he had grown up a Rossoneri-mad fan – and with Alexandro Pato beset with chronic injury problems those not much younger than El Shaarawy now have a new starlet to fawn over.

The Pharaoh, as he has been dubbed, is proving the old adage that if the talent is there, age is not an issue – and certainly Milan’s creaking veterans needed new zest and zip.

The pre-season months had been spent putting bulk onto his slender frame but when he was finally given his debut he proved he could mix it with the seasoned professionals.

In only his second appearance he found the back of the net to earn Milan a crucial point at home to Udinese who they had been struggling to break down. In fact, both his league goals this season, to add to his two in the Italian Cup, have come against the team from Udine.

For many, his performance and the victory in the return fixture with the Bianconeri was seen as the turning point in the Rossoneri charge in the second-half of the campaign. The defending champions have since powered their way to the top of the table as they continue their season-long battle with Juventus for the title.

While El Shaarawy possesses the same raw pace, close-control and finishing as Pato, he has more awareness of what is going on around him and is more eager to bring his striker partners into the build-up.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has hinted on more than one occasion that he finds the movement and darting runs of the spikey-haired new boy more to his liking than the more direction approach that had been offered by the Brazilian on the rare occasions he has been fit.

Having caused the Juve backline plenty of problems in the Italian Cup semi-final where he also found the net, Massimiliano Allegri handed him his Champions League debut at Arsenal, feeling that holding a 4-0 advantage from the first leg, would be the ideal occasion to give him a taste of European action.

It turned out to be anything but a stroll at the Emirates - and with the team hemmed back in their own half, the forward saw little of the ball; when he was presented with his only goalscoring chance he fired wide.

However, moments such as these are all part of a steep learning curve that the player is taking in his stride – and with the season entering the home straight he has been used sparingly by Allegri who has preferred to bring him on for the final third when his pace can cause tiring defences plenty of problems.

Apart from dreams of winning the league this season, the sparkling forward has also set his sights on wearing the Italy shirt. He has been picked for his country at every level from the under-16s up to the under-21s and he could yet be a surprise call-up to Euro 2012 squad.

He knows that hard work will take him far, but it is also a matter of maintaining his distinctive hairstyle, which is as dazzling as his footwork. The crest has been with him for the last three years is set to stay with him all the way to the top.

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