La Gazzetta dello Sport (Chiara Zucchelli) Last year, with 8 goals in 18 games, he was the unexpected surprise of Roma’s second half of the season, who then paid €13 million to sign him permanently from Milan. This year Stephan El Shaarawy hasn’t lived up to the promise and the expectation of 12 months ago, but the numbers are at least on his side. He is in fact the team’s 4th highest scorer after Dzeko (37 goals), Salah (17) and Nainggolan (13), but he has played a lot less than any of them. He has only just hit the 2000 minutes mark, while the Belgian has played twice that, Dzeko almost twice and Salah 1000 minutes more.
El Shaarawy’s goal against Milan will certainly have put his mind at ease somewhat, almost exactly half a season after his worst moment since joining the Giallorossi. Dzeko’s injury has given him the opportunity to play for a starting position. In the first meeting this season, he was practically guaranteed to start against Juventus, given that neither Salah nor Peres were completely fit, but surprisingly (to put it lightly) Spalletti played Gerson instead and Stephan was left hugely disappointed (to put it lightly again). So much so that he wasn’t able to make the most of his opportunities when Salah left for the African Cup of Nations. In the last few weeks, however, he has begun to find his form again, because he has played in every game since the match against Empoli – when he remained on the bench – and both scored in San Siro (he hadn’t scored a league goal since March) and set up three goals against Pescara.
Now, as the season nears its conclusion, he will come face to face with his mentor Allegri, who wanted to sign him for Juve from Monaco 18 months ago. Next comes his friend Menez’s 30th birthday celebrations, and after that, at the end of the season, he will sit down with his agent (his brother) to talk to Monchi to discuss the future. He will turn 25 in October, and with the World Cup coming up next year he cannot afford to make the wrong decision. Nor, for that matter, can Roma, given the amount they have invested in him. El Shaarawy and the sporting director will decide which path to take: to stay together, or to go their separate ways. Il Faraone has offers from China and the United States, but at his age he isn’t seriously considering them. His experience abroad, at Monaco, didn’t go well – even though he was only a short distance away from his home in Savona – and he wouldn’t just think twice but would have to think 100 times about leaving Italy in such a delicate season for his international prospects. His priority is Roma, and would only otherwise look to move elsewhere in Italy. But this is a discussion for 20 days’ time; first he needs to help Roma finish off their season as well as possible, and is aiming to net double figures (without penalties) himself by the end of the year. To do that on Sunday, delaying his friend Allegri’s title celebrations, would be a good way of forgetting the disappointment of this season’s first meeting with Juventus.