Egypt’s lost ‘Pharaoh’ El-Shaarawy targets Euro 2016 after Roma revival
Five goals for the ‘Pharaoh’ Stephan El-Shaarawy has not simply galvanised Roma; it has fuelled an individual resurgence
The sacred Eternal Flame in Rome is burning once again. After a run of one win in nine games in Serie A, Roma’s push for Champions League qualification is alive. A change in coach - Luciano Spalletti replacing Rudi Garcia - has inspired a run of six straight victories. Five goals for the ‘Pharaoh’ Stephan El-Shaarawy has not simply galvanised Roma; it has fuelled an individual resurgence.
The timing for the 23-year-old to return to prominence in Italian football could hardly be better. Six months before the 2016 European Championships, Italy’s national team is on the hunt more than ever for a quality attacking player. El-Shaarawy, capped 17 times, certainly fits the bill. "I came to Roma to give everything I've got and give my career a turning point, but also with the aim of going to the Euros," he told reporters at the weekend, as quoted by goal.com. "I need to keep playing well for Roma and if possible keep scoring too, then we'll see.”
Regarded as one of the most talented attackers in Europe just a few years ago, El-Shaarawy’s career went off the rails when he left AC Milan for Monaco. A short spell in the principality was an additional set back for the striker who didn’t score in 15 league games. Roma took advantage of good relations with Milan to secure the player on a six-month loan deal, with an option to purchase for 14 million euros.
El-Shaarawy led by example, bringing verve and audacity in attack as he scored a double in Roma’s 3-1 win over Empoli in Serie A. His first goal, after four minutes, was reflective of a footballer blessed with great confidence. Charging out of midfield on the counterattack, the Italian had little options around him, but still managed to conjure up an outstanding finish to put the capital side ahead. The second, to secure three points that moves the club into third place, was opportunist in nature; his follow-up reaping its rewards as he was presented with an empty net.
Not convincing in Milan
As El-Shaarawy found out, AC Milan isn’t quite the easiest place to thrive as a young attacker. A product of the Genoa youth academy, he became the fourth youngest player in Serie A history to make his debut. A 20 million euro move to the San Siro propelled the attacker into the public light, and after tentative steps had a good spell of form for the club.
After winning the Italian Super Cup in 2011, his only major honour in Milan, he enjoyed a superb second season, hitting 16 league goals in Serie A. But afterwards, he struggled with the hype - not necessarily as a result of his performances on the pitch, but his life off-the-field. Three league goals in two seasons wasn’t enough for the Milan board, undergoing a serious facelift, to secure his services.
Questions about commitment and stability in his life were perhaps brought more into the spotlight when he decided to leave AC Milan for Monaco at the beginning of the season, a move which never pushed on his career as he would have hoped. Only since returning to Italy has the striker once again captured the attention.
A star in France
If the forward can maintain this development curve at Roma, his place in Italy’s national side will be cemented ahead of the European Championships. A national team director has been keeping tabs on the striker, according to reports. Given the lack of match-winning talent in attack, Antonio Conte’s side would be better off with El-Shaarawy, it seems.
Southampton’s Graziano Pelle is the main player in the forward line, while Eder from Inter Milan appears to be a useful option in wide areas. But for a country, which has been blessed with the prodigious clutch of attackers like Francesco Totti, Alessandro del Piero and Roberto Baggio, this will be seen as the poorest crop in a generation.
Although that will give Italian fans little hope for the tournament in France, for El-Shaarawy, the situation is ideal. Italy needs a leader and a match-winner in forward areas and the ‘Pharaoh’ - as he is named by the Italian media as a result of his Egyptian father - might turn out to be an important