El Shaarawy: ‘I miss Italy’

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua star Stephane El Shaarawy has called for a return to Italy, revealing that he “misses Italy” and his Roma “family”.

The former Milan and Roma forward, who scored 55 goals in 195 Serie A games before his move to China last summer.

He left Roma in a €16m transfer to join Shanghai Shenhua on a lucrative deal until June 2022. But the Italy international has only played 13 games since the move, as the new season has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic emerging in China.

The 27-year-old has revealed that the situation has “improved” and claimed it’s a “message of hope” for the rest of the world.

“The situation has improved considerably. It’s a city that has started to come alive again, as has the whole country,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “We are doing great. It’s a message of hope for the whole world.

“From my house, I now see traffic in the streets, people are starting to come out again. I think it’s a great sign. In the most tragic period, they put an entire region in lockdown.

“Now, just being able to go to the restaurant, to the bar, is a great triumph.”

But the uncertainties in China made him search for a move back to Europe during the transfer market in January, as he wanted to secure a place in Roberto Mancini’s Italy squad for Euro 2020.

The European Championship has since been postponed to 2021 but El Shaarawy’s desire to return to Italy has not diminished.

“With this situation I tried, together with the club, to find a solution,” he said. “When they arrived in January, they had postponed the championship and it was not known for how long we had to stop.

“With the international matches in March, I couldn’t afford to sit still. I had asked the club to find a solution with them, because I prioritised the European Championship. I wanted to play and to stop would not be productive.

“For now, I’m a Shanghai player and I have to think about performing for the team. I can’t talk about it now.”

But El Shaarawy admitted that he “felt part of a family” during his stint at Roma and said the lifestyle in China is “completely different”.

“I left a lot in Rome, not just for football. I felt like I was part of a family. I miss Italy,” he said. “I miss everything, even my parents.

“When you are catapulted into a world that’s completely different from yours, you are missing many things.

“I was lucky enough to return a lot to Italy, often thanks to the national team, I never lost contact.”

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