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El Shaarawy backs Balotelli for greatness

Stephan El Shaarawy insists that he and AC Milan and Azzurri team-mate Mario Balotelli represent the 'young, new' Italy and thinks his strike partner could become one of the best players in the world.

El Shaarawy, 20, has won rave reviews for his form in Serie A this season and played on the left wing for the 2-2 friendly draw with Brazil on Thursday. But it is Balotelli who has been making the headlines since his return to Milan in January and, eventually, El Shaarawy thinks he can reach the very top.

"Mario is improving rapidly. I'm happy for him. He can become one of the top three players in the world," he told a press conference. "I'm glad that he is growing, as a player and as a man. I can see [that he is] much more mature.

"Mario and I represent a young, new Italy. Investing in youth is the most important thing. I'm glad we're doing well, but we still have lots of room for improvement, to make Italy even better."

Italy face Malta in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday evening but, while the 'Little Pharaoh' [he is of Egyptian descent] has not scored as many goals as he would have liked of late, he does not believe it is a problem.

"I don't feel that I miss scoring goals," he added. "Both Cesare Prandelli and Massimiliano Allegri tell me the prerogative is to play well. The performance is more important than the goal. Prandelli asks me the same things that Allegri does in a 4-3-3, where I can play wide left."

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