AC Milan fans will have to wait one more month before seeing Stephan El Shaarawy back in action as he steps up his recovery from an operation on his metatarsal in December.
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The 21-year-old's last Serie A goal came almost a year ago while his last appearance in a Rossoneri shirt was on Dec. 7, when he aggravated the foot injury which had kept him sidelined since September.
In total, El Shaarawy has made four league appearances this season, but an agonising time could soon be behind him.
"These months have been difficult," El Shaarawy told Il Giorno. "I've been out of action for a long time, but the important thing is I'm recovering well and we'll do further checks soon and if there aren't any further complications, I can start my rehabilitation.
"I've never been out for so long before. I've been so angry and so disappointed, but now I just want to get back to being a key player for Milan because I miss it a lot. I want to score goals again."
Should his recovery go according to the latest plan, El Shaarawy could be back in action come the end of March. That would still give him enough time to stake a claim for a place in the Italy squad for the World Cup.
"I won't hide the fact that I do think about the national team," he said. "If I come back and do well for Milan, then I think the call might arrive. I've not spoken to [Italy coach Cesare] Prandelli since the operation, but a lot can happen between now and May."
When he does recover full fitness, he will first have to prove to new Milan coach Clarence Seedorf that he is worthy of a place in the side. With stiff competition for a place alongside Mario Balotelli, that is not something he can take for granted.
"Big clubs always have intense competition for places," he said. "But I just focus on myself. Of course we've signed some quality players, but I'll do all I can to make the coach's life difficult. I've matured a lot these past months. I've changed. Periods of difficulty help you to grow and mature, and that's happened to me."