On the face of things, trading in arguably the brightest prospect on Milan's books at this present time, the man who single-handedly dragged us through one of our roughest spells in many years last years, for an injury-prone 23-year old forward with declining goal returns and a stated preference for a move to Juventus seems like the type of deal that should rightfully incite uproar across the club's global fanbase. But when you really drill down into the facts, could a hypothetical deal which dispatches Stephan El Sharaawy to Fiorentina in exchange for Stevan Jovetic change the complexion of this Milan team in a way that makes the side a more cohesive and dangerous outfit going forwards?
Full disclosure- I'm an unashamed fan of Montenegro's favourite son, and have been since witnessing his solo annihilation of Liverpool in the Champions League aged 17. I admire his awareness, his intelligent movement; his ability to complete simple jobs such as quick passing and poached finishes with such efficiency and polish that he raises the mundane to something of an art form. But it's not simply my fondness for Jovetic as an individual that piques my interest in this unlikeliest of swap deals- in many respects, his potential fit within the incremental overhaul that is talking place at Milan should give even his most stubborn of critics pause for thought also.
It is undeniable at this point that Mario Balotelli's spot as the line leader of the next generation Milan side has become all but unassailable since his arrival in January. And where El Shaarawy has failed in recent months to provide a foil for Balo's talents, I believe that Jovetic would only excel. Whereas the Little Pharaoh demonstrated at the start of the season that he is most comfortable playing off of a striker who will provide for him through unselfish, assistive holdup work, the type of support he was largely robbed of when Balo replaced Pazzini in Milan's starting XI, Jovetic is in many respects very much the opposite- a forward whose primary intention is always to drop off and work for his partner as well as forging out opportunities for himself from deep (55 in 31 games last season). Marry this mentality with Balotelli's brutish line leader approach, and you have a striker partnership made in heaven for a 4-3-1-2.
Indeed, it is easily conceivable that Jovetic's creative abilities could also see him dropped back to play No.10 in this same formation, while he has also proven adept at playing the inverted, inwards-cutting wide forward if Allegri wishes to carry his 4-3-3 into next season. If El Shaarawy has handed Allegri a puzzle in recent weeks, Jovetic enters the side as a ready made package of potential solutions.
So assuming that continuing to accommodate Balotelli is Allegri's key aim for next season, then there is at least some rationale for trading the Pharaoh in for the Viola's brightest prospect of the past decade. On a personal level, I don't think personnel decisions should be taken on such single-minded grounds. There are still hundreds of reasons intrinsic to the skills and potential of El Shaarawy himself- his flair, his incredible goalscorer's instinct, his huge upside and non-existent downside- that should make retaining him an absolute priority for Galliani this offseason.
At the end of the day, though, it all depends perhaps on whether you consider the strengths of a club's prospects in isolation, or in terms of an overarching vision for the squad, and it increasingly looks as if as Milanistas we will be forced to content ourselves with the latter approach being taken by the club management. It is becoming increasingly clear that the aspects of the Pharaoh's game that recommend him over players like Jovetic will be utterly redundant in the seasons to come if he the opportunities to express them in a comfortable setting continue to be denied for him. Though I still think El Shaarawy will remain the jewel of the team if either he or Allegri find a way to resettle him in to the side, there is at least his departure in a hypothetical switch for Jovetic could spawn an upgraded, cohesive attacking lineup that would endure for years to come.