The new life of Stephan El Shaarawy with Mourinho

The new life of Stephan El Shaarawy with Mourinho

LaPresse photo

the Europa League final

Marco Gaetani

El Shaarawy's second season at Milan, when he was 19, had been dazzling, a promise of greatness. Then things went differently. But now the Ligurian has grown up, he has understood the importance of sacrifice, he is the man in the best shape in Rome who is playing in the Europa League

When he had chosen the car (and the car, economically speaking) he was exiled to China, drastically ahead of the schedule that generally takes European players to distant and inglorious leagues for mere economic reasons, on account of Stephan El Shaarawy the label of the unambitious footballer had been placed, ready to give up the best years in Europe, given that at that moment he was not yet twenty-seven, in order to raise cash. He had said to seek happiness, he had not believed anyone. So he understood that he had already found it, the place to be happy, pushing to go back. Two and a half years after that choice, after that return to Rome from exile, El Shaarawy has not only rediscovered himself as a fundamental player for a team that is hunting for the Europa League tonight, but he is in all probability the fittest man available to José Mourinho.

The problem with precocious talents is that we end up showering them with expectations that they can't always keep: El Shaarawy's second season at Milan, when he was 19, was dazzling, a promise of greatness and wonder that filled our eyes and led us to calculate a faulty tare. Everything that followed has been compared to that once-in-a-lifetime year, eventually overshadowing the achievements of a player who is now, on the threshold of thirty, a godsend for any manager. Mourinho enthusiastically embraced a ductile El Shaarawy, predisposed to sacrifice, tactically reset already from Luciano Spalletti's second Romanist parenthesis: not only a winger with a license to hit in front of goal and from outside the area, but also a hard worker across the board. The intuition of the Tuscan coach gave the Portuguese, a few years later, a total player, who has not lost the ability to hurt in the goal area and at the same time can take on much more onerous commitments: Mourinho had already passed on the he importance of sacrificing to a ferocious finisher like Samuel Eto'o, doing it with this El Shaarawy already "mentalised" by Spalletti was a simple step after all.

All without forgetting that the Ligurian knows perfectly how to be dangerous between the lines and in the penalty area: he has never lost his movements as a second striker, as evidenced by the decisive scratch in the second leg against Feyenoord, and he also knows how to sew the game between Rome's center forward, a figure often forced into isolation, and the midfield. He took the team on his shoulders in the weeks in which injuries weakened Dybala and Pellegrini and he rediscovered his importance especially since January: when Roma lost Zaniolo, El Shaarawy was back as Faraone. His contract is expiring but there's no time to think about the future, not even a Milan that seems to have knocked on his door again. “All or nothing” he wrote on Instagram two days ago, the rest doesn't count. In Budapest he dreams of another night as a protagonist.

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