AC Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy says the economic difficulties felt by the club have led to him being able to rise to prominence, although admits he could never have expected 2012 to go as well as it has.
A year ago, the youngster was on the outskirts of the team, but this term his stock has skyrocketed after scoring 14 goals in 18 appearances in Serie A making him top goalscorer in the league.
And the 20-year-old, who has also broken into Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad, can hardly contemplate what has happened in a whirlwind 12 months.
“It’s all a bit unexpected,” he told La Stampa. “A year ago, I would never have believed that I would be Serie A top scorer now.”
El Shaarawy also believes the financial situation that hit Massimiliano Allegri's side has aided his development, meaning the Rossoneri look to their youth squad rather than foreign talent.
He added: “The economical crisis has helped me, and lot of youngsters have been given a chance to display skills and they’ve taken advantage of that.
“We just needed some space – it makes no sense to go and buy players abroad when you already have good players at home.”
Despite the possibility of other clubs being interested in the prodigious talent, the former Genoa man hopes Milan will be in a position to ensure whereby staying put will be the best option for his career.
“I’ve supported Milan since I was a kid,” he said.
“However there is nothing certain in football. If a big offer was made for me then I’d hope Milan would have the strength to keep me.”