I don’t brag about much when it comes to my Roma predictions, but when the then Rudi Garcia led Giallorossi signed Stephan El Shaarawy, I was absolutely giddy, boldly predicting (behind the scenes anyway) that this would be a huge signing. Now, we’ll never know how SES would have fared under Garcia, but once Luciano Spalletti returned to Roma, El Shaarawy was a revelation, catching firing in the spring of 2016. Coupled with Mohamed Salah and Diego Perotti, SES was integral in Spalletti’s False Nine 2.0 approach, one that rescued Roma from the abyss, bringing them back to the Champions League the following season.
At this point, I can’t really hide my El Shaarawy bias; I love him. Back when he debuted with Milan, I was quite jealous, thinking “why can’t Roma get a kid like that?’ So, naturally, I was over the moon when they signed him, but...and even I can admit this...there is a reason he bounced around from Milan to Monaco back to Milan and then to Roma; he’s incredibly inconsistent.
In some ways, his mammoth debut season (16 goals in 37 appearances as a 20-year-old) probably set the bar a touch too high; there was simply no way he’d be able to come close to that year in and year out, especially not as a young twenty something—that’s some Messi shit right there. And when you throw in a parade of managers he toiled under, each using him in different ways, some minor injuries, the transfers and, yes, some off the pitch issues, his inconsistency becomes somewhat understandable. It doesn’t explain away all the ups and downs, but let’s face facts; the 2012 version of El Shaarawy was an aberration—he was never meant to be that good, so perhaps some of what we interpret as inconsistency is simply, well, El Shaarawy being what he truly is—a slightly above average attacker.
Still, as arguably the club’s most athletic and/or agile player, not to mention it’s currently goal scoring leader with (gulp) three, his role and importance to this team is clear—to get up the pitch, cut in and (hopefully) wreak some havoc in the final third. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at this point in time, Roma don’t have a better option for that left flank.
Accordingly, reports are now circulating that El Shaarawy and Roma are working on a new two-year contract extension, one that would keep SES in the capital through 2022. While no details have been made public, or indeed confirmed by anyone close to the club, it is believed this new deal will bump his pay beyond its current €2 million.
Given his inconsistencies, it’s hard to properly ascertain his true worth—do you pay him for what he’s done or what he might do? At 26-years-old, El Shaarawy has probably peaked as a player, but he’ll always have that allure of 2012 and 2016—the possibility that he could catch fire and change your fortunes.
And that allure, that sense of what might be, will probably keep El Shaarawy gainfully employed well into his 30s. Besides, go back and watch that Totti “retirement” video and look at the tears in El Shaarawy’s eyes—he gets it.