Well, how's that for timing? Just a day after giving Stephan El Shaarawy's return to Roma an 80% chance of happening, it seems like we were being overly cautious in those projections. With 16 goals through seven matches, Paulo Fonseca's attack is the league’s second most prolific, trailing only Sassuolo and Atalanta who have each found the back of the net 18 times. Still, despite those strong early returns, one can simply never have enough attackers.
As well as Pedro and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have settled into life in Roma (eight goals and six assists combined), both of these savvy veterans fall on the wrong side of 30; an absurd statement in the real world but one a football manager navigating three competitions under high duress must contend with.
With Roma purging themselves of wide forwards at the end of the summer transfer window (Kluivert to RB Leipzig, Patrik Schick to Leverkusen, Cengiz Ünder to Leicester City and Diego Perotti to Fenerbahçe), the only respite Fonseca can provide for Pedro or Mkhitaryan comes in the form of young Carles Pérez, who has delighted Roma fans with his explosive athleticism and darting runs but remains plagued by the inconsistencies of youth.
Add all that up and what Fonseca needs is an athletic wide forward young enough and explosive enough to offer something different than Pedro or Mkhitaryan but with enough experience where Fonseca can drop him in the lineup without batting an eye.
That someone, as it turns out, is looking increasingly like Stephan El Shaarawy, Shanghai Shenhua's 28-year-old forward. As we're all well aware, SES spent parts of four seasons in Roma, scoring 40 goals while providing 19 assists before signing with Shanghai in the summer of 2019. It was arguably the best stretch of El Shaarawy's career, which made his abrupt departure a bitter pill to swallow for Roma fans.
While we can't fault El Shaarawy for chasing a paycheck, with only 16 appearances in a Shanghai shirt, it's safe to say his move to China was a complete and utter bust from a footballing perspective. Accordingly, El Shaarawy has been eyeing a return to Italy for nearly a year now and almost got his wish late in the summer when his return to Roma fell through at the last minute.
But persistence is often the key to success, and according to Leggo, Roma and Shanghai Shenhua have a framework in place that would see El Shaarawy return to Roma in January. Leggo reports that Roma will take SES on loan through June 2021 with a buyout clause believed to be in the €10 to €15 million neighborhood. For his part, SES will have to take an enormous wage haircut, lowering his €11 million Shanghai salary all the way down to a reported €2.6 million.
Transfers are seldom as linear as the rumor mill would have you believe, but after nearly pulling off this deal earlier this fall, it's certainly encouraging to see the two clubs engaged in negotiations.
El Shaarway's return to Roma almost seems pre-determined, so let's hope this isn't just one gigantic tease.