From being heralded as the new symbol of Milan and signing a new contract that would see him remain with the club until 2018, Stephan El Shaarawy faces a completely different scenario four months on.
The 20-year-old ended last season as the Rossoneri's top goalscorer in Serie A, but suffered from a disastrous lack of form in the latter stages of the campaign as fatigue eventually caught up with him.
In addition, the arrival of Mario Balotelli in January was said to have stunted his development as critics suggested that the duo were incompatible given their struggles to be effective simultaneously.
"Super Mario" was given the responsibility of spearheading the attack, leaving El Shaarawy on the periphery of the offense, yet lauded for his commitment to his teammates in his tireless defensive effort.
While the youngster will spend the next fortnight on international duty at the Confederations Cup, his future is shrouded in doubt as the club continually fail to rule out the possibility of selling their star.
Following the sales of both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva last summer, the message thereafter was clear. The club's financial state was now in a much healthier position, thus ruling out the need to sell players in future.
However, a year on, it would appear that "anything can happen during the transfer sessions" as revealed by team vice president Adriano Galliani last week, and that El Shaarawy was "not off the market".
Speculation has suggested Manchester City are ready to offer either 40 million euros for the Italian international, while a cash-plus-player deal involving Carlos Tevez is also a possibility. Regardless of the offer on the table, the club need to make a statement that effectively takes El Shaarawy off the transfer market and proves they no longer need to be a selling club.
His agent has reiterated his stance, stating that his client is not for sale and will remain in Milan next season. But what makes this situation even more puzzling is the club’s reported replacements. Having made a conscious effort of building a young nucleus of players at the club to take them forward for years to come, signing either Tevez (29) or Alessandro Matri (28) makes little sense in the broader picture.
El Shaarawy's struggles in the second half of the season should not discount what he achieved previously. He has proven to be an imperative part of what Milan are building, but coupled with the tactical change that Milan will adopt next season it will also be vital that the coaching staff work with him meticulously on how to deal with the increased attention he now receives.
Combined with the formation switch, there is a great expectancy over the more expansive style of football Milan will adopt next season. El Shaarawy will play a pivotal role in both the immediate and long-term future and is nowhere near the peak years of his career. That should be enough reason to dispel the uncertainty over his future at the club.
Should El Shaarawy be taken off the market or is there sufficient worry to warrant considering a sale?
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