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Di Marzio: El Shaarawy to Shanghai Shenhua for €18 million

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El Shaarawy is the third installment in Roma's 2019 Sell ‘Em All Campaign

Stephan El Shaarawy of Italy during the 2020 UEFA European... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

When Stephan El Shaarawy was brought to Roma in the winter of 2016, he was greeted with a healthy amount of skepticism, and not just because his hair never moved an inch throughout the entirety of a match. With practically no meaningful contributions to the world of football since his breakout season with AC Milan in 2012-2013, El Shaarawy was already written off by many pundits; just another talented kid who couldn't handle the fame and adulation.

Couple that with the fact that he wasn't even the only winger purchased that winter (Diego Perotti) and not too many people were jazzed on Roma's latest addition. Oh, and we haven't even mentioned that Roma had a) just changed managers, bringing in Luciano Spalletti for Rudi Garci and b) had just jettisoned two other disappointing wingers, Gervinho and Juan Iturbe.

Needless to say, between all that and his own floundering career, El Shaarawy wasn't entering Roma under the greatest of circumstances. For my part, being someone who loves shiny things, I was cautiously optimistic:

Due to his struggles with Monaco and the inevitable adjustment period (to Serie A, to Roma and to Spalletti), it’s a bit harder to set a barometer for his short-term success. At minimum, we’d hope he can fill Gervinho’s shoes; that is to say, man the left flank and put the pedal to the medal, anything outside of that is gravy.

In the long run, it’s the same story we’ve read umpteen times: if his mind ever catches up with his feet, if his understanding of the game ever runs in tandem with his innate talent, watch out, we might have a monster on our hands

And with eight goals in only 16 league appearances in the spring of 2016, El Shaarawy took to Roma like a duck in water. Teaming up with Mohamed Salah (remember him?) and Perotti, SES’ resurgence in Spalletti's false nine front line was integral to Roma returning to the Champions League the following season. He wasn't quite that same El Shaarawy from Milan, but he was quick, he was dangerous and he was on a tear.

With El Shaarawy catching fire, Roma were wise to keep him in the fold. While the ensuing two season weren't quite as prolific, El Shaarawy still managed nearly 20 goals in all competitions between fall of 2016 and the spring of 2018. Sure, he wasn't scoring as much as anyone liked, but with 2,000 league minutes under his belt in both those seasons, he was an important piece of the Roma puzzle.

So, when the 2018-2019 season began, one in which El Shaarawy was looking to improve his chances a new deal, he looked invigorated and ready to put the inconsistencies of the past behind him. While SES got off to a bit of a slow start, his goal against Chievo in mid September really got the ball rolling, scoring seven goals and contributing one assist over his next ten games.

El Shaarawy would follow that up with five more goals and two additional assists before the season wrapped up, emerging as perhaps Roma's best player. Still, despite finishing the year as the club's top scorer and once again logging over 2,000 minutes of action, El Shaarawy was unable to land a new deal with Roma. With SES’ camp seeking some €3 million per season, the two sides remained deadlocked through the spring, and while Ricky Massara assured us all the deal was still being hammered out, Roma's change in leadership seemingly put El Shaarawy's new deal on the back burner.

All of which leads us to this:

After a week or so of debating, it seems as though El Shaarawy has acquiesced and will make the move to Shanghai Shenhua in an €18 million move, one that will pay him a reported €40 million over the three year deal. While El Shaarawy initially rebuffed Shanghai's overtures, preferring to remain in an important European league, in the end it seemed like those eye-popping dollar amounts won out.

Look, El Shaarawy was my favorite player on this current squad, so I can't hide my disappointment, but more power to him; that's a ton of money and more than he likely would have made playing in Serie A for the remainder of his career, so I certainly can't blame him for taking that rather than moving to another midtable Serie A team.

But once again we have to point out the absurdity of Roma's wage structure. Upon signing Leonardo Spinazzola to a four year deal, a guy who had played for seven different teams since 2012 and has a history of knee injuries, Roma immediately doubled his salary to €3 million. Yet, for their leading scorer and a guy who had become a workhorse for the club, who is the same age as Spinazzola I might add, they didn't see fit to match that same €3 million salary.

And for all this, they're pulling in a measly €18 million. Bravo, Roma. With Edin Dzeko seemingly steps away from Inter Milan and El Shaarawy now on his way to China, we're left to wonder who will be scoring goals for Roma next season.

El Shaarawy was a productive and dutiful servant to AS Roma but ultimately, like so many before him, that just didn't matter.