“While we were negotiating (with Inter for Radja Nainggolan) we had two requests: (Andrei Ionuț) Radu and Zaniolo. Radu, however, had already been sent on loan to Genoa. Inter did not want to sell Zaniolo, they are not stupid, but at the same time, they also really wanted to bring Radja, so it was normal that they had to give-in on something. The transfer wouldn’t have fallen-through had Zaniolo not been included, it wasn’t a case of either-or. I did not think that Zaniolo would be decisive so quickly”.
Roma sporting director Ramon Monchi gave the full background in an interview just days ago on the transfer that brought wonderkid Nicolo Zaniolo to the Italian capital this past summer. Zaniolo became the talk of Serie A this week after a sensational goal against Sassuolo during the Giallorossi’s hammering of Sassuolo at the Stadio Olimpico.
The 19 year old, who is in his first full season of top flight football, has experienced a meteoric rise in recent months after having joined Roma in the summer in the operation that saw Radja Nainggolan join Inter in exchange for Zaniolo, fullback Davide Santon plus €30 million.
Zaniolo was seen as a bit of an unknown quantity once the news leaked that he would be one of the youngsters involved in the operation for the Belgian – as the Nerazzurri wanted to lower the cash portion of the Giallorossi’s €40 million asking price.
Roma supporters, though, were treated to their first glimpse of the immense potential of the Tuscan-born trequartista during this summer’s U-19 European Championship. Alongside Moise Kean, Zaniolo was one of the standouts for the Azzurri, who fell 4-3 in the final of the competition to Portugal. On display, though, was Zaniolo’s immense personality, his ability to pick-out a decisive pass in the final third and his sensational work-rate.
Upon arrival in the Italian capital, though, it was widely expected that he would join a lower-level Serie A or even a Serie B side on loan in order to gain experience. Manager Eusebio Di Francesco had other ideas, however, as he blocked any and all attempts regarding the midfielder‘s exit.
His first month of the season was spent primarily on the bench — but he was handed an incredible debut at the Santiago Bernabeu in Roma’s Champions League group stage match against Real Madrid. Not at all fased by the moment, Zaniolo put in a commendable 54 minute shift against the Spanish side as he was deployed as a mezz’ala in Eusebio Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 formation.
After injuries to Javier Pastore and Lorenzo Pellegrini coupled with a change in formation by Di Francesco, Zaniolo has hit his stride playing as a #10 in the team’s 4-2-3-1 set-up.
While he has yet to notch an assist in 14 appearances, it’s clear that Zaniolo possesses the technical and physical (he stands at 1.90m tall) traits to succeed at a top level.
After having taken massive amounts of criticism for selling one of Roma’s most beloved players in Radja Nainggolan, Monchi appears to have found redemption — and it’s all thanks to Nicolo Zaniolo.
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