The strange dance between AS Roma, Stephan El Shaarawy, and Shanghai Shenhua drags on into a new month, and indeed into a new year. While Roma very nearly re-acquired the 28-year-old winger over the summer, only to see the move fall through at the last minute when the contracts and transfer paperwork couldn't be submitted prior to the deadline, it didn't take long for the Giallorossi to reignite their interest in El Shaaway, who hasn't played a match for Shanghai since August 26, 2020—one of only 16 appearances El Shaarawy has made since signing in the summer of 2019.
El Shaarawy has made no secret of his desire to return to Serie A, particularly with Euro 2020/2021 set for this summer, while Roma, even under the stewardship of new GM Tiago Pinto, has consistently tabbed El Shaarawy as their number one winter transfer target.
Despite that mutual admiration, negotiations between the two clubs have been stalled for a couple of weeks now. With a €16 million transfer fee and nearly €11 million in salary clouding negotiations, Shanghai has been understandably reluctant to let El Shaarawy leave on a dry six-month loan, preferring to recoup something for an investment gone wrong, while Roma hasn't made any official, permanent transfer offers to date.
While El Shaarawy has been intermittently connected to Fiorentina, the complete lack of progress and the absence of new suitors suggests that for El Shaarawy, it's either Roma or bust. And late last week, it seemed like the path was clear for El Shaarawy to return to Roma by voluntarily rescinding his contract with Shanghai, much like Henrikh Mkhitaryan did with Arsenal to extend his stay with Roma this season.
However, as one might imagine, you can't simply toss a contract in the shredder and expect everything to fall into place. But, according to Sky Sport, there may actually be a language hidden within El Shaarawy's contract that covers this exact scenario: a non-adaptation clause.
Under this scenario—the details provided by Sky were sort of bare-bones—we can presume that El Shaarawy's almost complete absence from the club (again, only 16 appearances in two years, none since August) could be his salvation, as Roma and El Shaarawy could potentially exploit this contractual language to pave the way for a dry six-month loan or possibly even a complete termination of his deal, though in that case, we can presume that El Shaarawy would be forfeiting some portion of his remaining salary.
Stephan El Shaarawy is a unique player, so it’s only fitting that his return to Roma would come under equally unique circumstances. Whether it's a dry loan, a complete termination of his deal, or a loan with an option to buy this coming summer, this reunion, which has been in the works since September, makes too much sense for both parties: El Shaarawy needs Roma to boost his Italy profile while the club needs his talents to augment their aging attack.
We'll provide further updates as they become available, but this situation, no matter how perfect it may seem, is extraordinarily complex.