La Gazzetta dello Sport (Chiara Zucchelli) “There’s not much to say but there’s lots to do.” Exactly a year ago, on 26th January, 2016, Stephan El Shaarawy came to Trigoria saying these words. Following his unsuccessful spell with Monaco, he and his brother had landed at Fiumicino the night before to be welcomed by general indifference. The striker signed for Roma with two aims in mind: to show that, at 23 years old, he could still reach his potential, and to get into Italy’s squad for the European Championships. He achieved both during an outstanding 6 month spell: 8 goals and 2 assists in 18 games, scoring with his right foot, his left foot and his head; he has an exemplary relationship with the fans; and his relationship with Spalletti was a carrot-and-stick one, but the coach made both El Shaarawy and Roma soar.
But since September, something has changed. El Shaarawy is no longer a starter – he is getting his chances, but his performances aren’t the same, even if he has already scored 6 goals and made 5 assists. He isn’t a cornerstone of the team, and this is why the club are looking for a new forward during the transfer window.
Meanwhile the other arrival, who will also shortly celebrate a year in Rome, Diego Perotti, is now one of Spalletti’s key players. He is the team’s penalty taker and, speaking to Roma Radio yesterday, he made himself very clear: “This has been a fantastic year for me, I’ve done well and Roma have done well also. But we have to keep thinking about winning and winning, because we haven’t achieved anything yet – we’re still second.”
Last season, when the Argentine played as a false 9, El Shaarawy was free to play on his preferred side – the left – and he was carried along on the back of his own confidence. His famous haircut became a minor detail, as a player he seemed to be reborn. Now he only occasionally smiles, even when he’s celebrating, but ultimately there are still 3 competitions and almost half a season left for him to sort himself out and reclaim his place in the Roma side. This time, the aim is a collective one: “To win a trophy would make all the difference in the world,” said Perotti, who has played 420 minutes more than El Shaarawy so far.
Diego, now over the calf injury that forced him to miss the game against Udinese, said that he is “feeling fine. I had an edema, we decided not to risk it.” El Shaarawy, meanwhile, missed the game against Pescara because of a hamstring injury, but he has also put this behind him. On Sunday, they will both be competing for a place to play alongside Dzeko against Samp, which is something of a personal derby for both of them given their histories with Genoa.
In theory, Perotti is the favourite to start, but in practice the Faraone’s pace and penalty area presence could make the difference when Spalletti is considering his options. However, that’s provided that Stephan rediscovers the same motivations that he had a year ago and which put him back into the limelight right from his first day at Trigoria.