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Stephan El Shaarawy: Derby display a sign of things to come
The 2013 January transfer window may one day be defined as the beginning stage of another great AC Milan side. During the winter market, they acquired Mario Balotelli from Manchester City for around £19 million. He has since produced four goals in his first four matches, but the form of the former Inter forward had put another young starlet into the shadows, and that man was Stephan El Shaarawy.
El Shaarawy had 18 goals in all competitions heading into the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday, but had scored just once in 2013. The addition of Balotelli brought up a lot of talking points from pundits and fans. Many thought that since the Rossoneri had signed a proper frontman, “Il Faraone” wouldn’t get the ball as much. However, the 20-year-old was still wreaking havoc, even against the best. He provided the assist for Sulley Muntari’s marker in their shock victory against Barcelona in the Champions League. Also, in one of the games that El Shaarawy didn’t get onto the score sheet, the 1-1 draw at Cagliari, the whole squad played poorly. He had four shots in the Udinese triumph (Balotelli’s debut), and, like his strike partners, he tore apart the Zebrette back line. Plus El Shaarawy was also coming off international duty for Italy prior to the Cagliari match, the fatigue was clearly affecting his performances.
The derby was, as expected, centred around Balotelli and Antonio Cassano. “Super Mario” was making his first appearance against his former team and Cassano faced his old suitors for the second time since his summer move to Inter. The match finished 1-1, but it wasn’t Mario who struck for his club, it was Stephan El Shaarawy who opened the scoring for Milan. It was his first goal since his tally against Atalanta on January 27th. What’s more impressive was the power and precision executed in getting the opener. The story post-game was completely different to what was being talked about heading into Sunday night. It was, indeed, the night El Shaarawy once again became “Il Faraone” and “Il futuro”. Without any call-ups to Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri to worry about for the rest of the season, things are on the up for the young striker.
The display in the derby should instill some confidence into El Shaarawy and might kick-start the second half of his campaign. He has already found the back of the net 19 times this year, and for him to get the majority of them when Milan were deemed hopeless, it’s quite an accomplishment. As for the Balotelli factor, it won’t hinder him. In fact, it’ll result in El Shaarawy getting more chances, and, ultimately, goals.