Stephan El Shaaraway: Why Manchester United Should Buy The Egyptian Ryan Giggs...
Accepting €23million from Paris St. Germain for Zlatan Ibrahimovic may turn out to be the best piece of transfer business AC Milan have carried out since offloading Ricky Kakà to Real Madrid, especially as it has enabled Manchester United target Stephan El Shaarawy to step out of the long shadow the Swede had cast over the team.
In fact, the 19-year-old has become such a shining light that he has eclipsed Ibra goalscoring achievements at the beginning of any season, with five goals in eight games overall heading into this weekend’s derby.
He has netted four in the league – a brace of which came against Cagliari to help Milan to their first home win of the season - and he then opened his account in the Champions League at Zenit St. Petersburg last week.
On this form he is expected to hit at least 30 goals for the season – Ibra scored 28 last year. Further incentive has arrived from club captain Massimo Ambrosini, who has promised to pay for a holiday for the youngster if he reaches double figures before the winter break.
There is no doubt that the world is at his quick and nibble feet – and having breathed new life into an aged and staid-looking Milan team he has naturally become the poster boy for a whole new generation of Rossoneri fans who have been racing out to copy his distinctive hedge-hog hair cut that both Ibrahimovic and Rino Gattuso tried in vain to shave off only to be left snipping away at fresh air.
Massimo Ambrosini, who has promised to pay for a holiday for the youngster if he reaches double figures before the winter break
The teenager is as tricky and fleet of foot on the pitch as he is off it and you know a player is on the steep trajectory to stardom when he starts speaking in the third person in interviews.
The Pharaoh, as he has been dubbed due to his Egyptian father, is climbing to the top of the pyramid in Italian football and is set to become the focal point of the Italy attack during their qualification campaign for World Cup 2014 in Brazil.
Milan had long coveted the Savona-born lad as he made his way through the Genoa youth ranks and then tore Serie B apart two seasons ago at Padova to be named player of the year in Italy’s second tier.
He had already represented Italy at every youth level and although Inter also made enquires, the close relationship between Milan chief Adriano Galliani and Genoa owner Enrico Preziosi ensured that El Shaarawy would be wearing the red and black – the fact he was also a Milan supporter may have helped as well.
In only his second appearance he found the back of the net to earn Milan a crucial point at home to Udinese when he came on for the injured Alexandre Pato. That would become a familiar theme through last season and as the Brazilian once again battles to return to fitness the young Italian has superseded the him not only in the hearts of the fans but the club management.
The Pharaoh, as he has been dubbed due to his Egyptian father, is climbing to the top of the pyramid
He may be a little too young to go out with Barbara Berlusconi, but like Pato in his even more youthful hay day; his raw pace has been too much to handle for defenders but where he really stands out is in his awareness of those around him and not only can he create chances out of nothing for himself, he is just as likely to set a team-mate up for a scoring opportunity.
This unselfishness also extends to tracking back and doubling up in defence, which prompted coach Massimiliano Allegri to select him on the left of attack and for Galliani to describe the young prodigy as the team’s very own Samuel Eto’o who during his time at Inter patrolled the left flank from one end of the other without pausing for breath.
And there is no stopping the new teen idol that has notable former Milan greats from Dejan Savicevic to Andriy Shevchenko singing his praises. Another Rossoneri legend Jose Altafini, who was a deadly goalscorer back in the 60s, has even gone as far as bracketing him with Lionel Messi and Neymar.
There is no doubt that Milan have a gem in the making, but they must learn from their experience with Pato not to smooth out too many rough edges. Tellingly the Milan Lab have not got their hands on El Shaarawy who unlike the South American has not been bulked up to the size of a middleweight fighter.
His strength instead comes from his slight frame which enables him to skip away from challenges and flailing legs to head straight into the heart of the opposition’s defence - if there was a player in the Premiership he most resembles in style it would be Manchester United stalwart Ryan Giggs and although he is predominately right-footed; he can still whip in a telling cross on the run with his left foot.
All he needs now is more playing time and the freedom to tie defences up in knots but after his early-season displays of poise and confidence, the Milan fans are already asking Zlatan who?
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