If I were a betting man, which I'm not mostly due to my deplorable lack of discretionary income, I'd say Mattia Destro will remain with Roma, at least through the remainder of this season. For that reason, and simply because I think he's such a fantastic player, one that Roma would never let go for pennies on the dollar, I haven't gotten my panties in a bunch when the daily maelstrom of Mattia Destro to Team X stories begin. There has been, however, one slightly intriguing exchange discussed since the transfer window opened earlier this month, the proposed/rumored/fabricated Destro-for-Stephan El Shaarawy swap.
Destro and El Sharaawy are identical in stature, they both received their first taste of Serie A action with Genoa before moving on and breaking in for good during the 2011-2012 season, Destro with Siena and SES with Milan, and they've both been, at one point or another, heralded as the future of the Azzurri attack.
We know what we'd be giving up in Destro, but what exactly would the Little Pharaoh bring to Rome?
Why This Move Makes Sense
As we just mentioned, El Shaarawy is at least a like-for-like physical swap with Destro, with the added bonus of bringing some extra speed and agility to the fold. And while he has historically been a left/wide forward, given his athleticism, you can probably move him around the pitch a bit and feel confident in his ability to threaten opposing defenses. However, aside from his stature and penchant for bold hair styles, why would Roma go for this deal?
Well, despite some injuries (more on that next) and his inability to coexist with Mario Balotelli (hardly an anomaly in that respect), he's awfully good, awfully marketable, and still just 23-years-old. If it feels like he's been around forever and been talked about ad nauseum, consider his breakthrough season, which was only two-and-a-half years ago.
While El Shaarawy made a handful of appearances the two seasons prior, when actually given a chance to play for the Rossoneri during the 2012-2013 season, the then 20-year-old burst on the Serie A scene with a 16 goal campaign. Over 37 appearances that season, SES averaged 0.50 goals per 90 minutes, put nearly three shots on goal per match, completed 85% of his passes and averaged 1.5 key passes and 1.2 dribbles per match...at 20-years-old.
So, just in case you had forgotten, there was a pretty damn good reason he was lionized at such a young age. Since then, as we mentioned, his form and performance have dipped due to injuries and the presence of Mario Balotelli. SES was like the B-average student whose grades immediately dipped when he sat near Mario during math class...you gotta keep ‘em separated.
However, if El Shaarawy can prove to be more than a flash in the pan, he provides Roma with enormous long term flexibility, as he could conceivably allow Roma to move/move-on from Gervinho, Juan Iturbe or even fill in the gaps if Alessandro Florenzi makes a permanent switch to fullback. We left Adem Ljajic out of that sentence intentionally; his ship has arrived, he ain't going anywhere for anyone
Okay, but the history of sports is littered with one year wonders, so let's flip this pillow over and talk about why this would be a horrendous idea.
Why It Doesn't Make Sense
Besides the simple fact that I cannot remember where and how many a's are in his name, let's talk about injuries. The Pharaoh has had a lot of them. Since 2013 alone, El Shaarawy has been sidelined for 42 games and a collective 211 days. And we're not talking about a simple strains and pulls, either, SES has had some serious knee issues, missing the second half of last season due to a metatarsal fracture.
Okay, even if we set that aside for a moment, where the hell would he even play?
Yes, we just said that he could potentially provide Roma some long term roster flexibility, but in the present tense he'd be blocked by Gervinho, Ljajic, Florenzi and even Iturbe. Pushing Destro out the door and using El Shaarawy as a striker/center forward does neither the team nor the player any benefit; that's not his game and would be a waste of his talents, not to mention Roma's money.
Besides which, we're overlooking one massive factor here; if Roma are to swap Destro for any Milan player, give me Mattia De Sciglio every day of the week and twice on Sunday. The other MDS is big, skilled with the ball at his feet, tough in the tackle and is only 22-years-old. If ever Walter Sabatini were to leverage Destro's fantastic 2014 into a swap move, he'd be hard pressed to find a better alternative than De Sciglio
Despite all the drawbacks, the prospect of El Shaarawy coming to Roma is an enticing one. He's proven, at least once, that he can light the league on fire, he has decent size for his position, he can pass, he can operate in tight spaces, he can swap roles and he can take his man off the dribble, and he's even a fair crosser of the ball.
While in the long run, he'd be an excellent addition to the club, in the here and now, there is simply nowhere for him to play. SES in his current state isn't an upgrade over any of Roma's wide forwards. Furthermore, any swap of Destro that doesn't address an immediate area of need leaves Roma wanting in multiple positions.
An intriguing headline, but probably little else.