3 Academy prospects Paris Saint-Germain didn’t capitalize03 April 2020 / Miguel Coelho
Paris Saint-Germain has an history of wasting their youth talent. Who are they?
Nicolò Zaniolo is only 20 years old, but his career seems to move at a devilish speed. At the age of 17, he debuted in the Italian Serie B with Virtus Entella after growing up in the Fiorentina academy, and shortly thereafter he joined Inter, although with the first ‘nerazzurri’ team he only played friendly matches. In the summer of 2018, his decisive leap came when he went to AS Roma as part of the transfer of Radja Nainggolan to Inter, and since then he has only grown and improved to such an extent that great European teams like Manchester United start calling his door.
"Zaniolo is a very talented player we believe in", were the words of Paulo Fonseca last July when he was presented as the new coach of Roma, since before his arrival the young player had not yet demonstrated his full potential. Since his move to the 'giallorossi' team, Zaniolo had made his debut in a tough defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League in the legendary Santiago Bernabéu, and shortly after he had become the youngest Italian player to score two goals in a game of the top European football competition when he did it against Porto in February 2019 for the round of 16. But it was the arrival of the Portuguese coach who allowed to see the best performance of the 20-year-old, and in just five months we are already facing the football explosion of the former Inter player.
In Italy's recent 9-1 win against Armenia for the last matchday of the EURO 2020 qualifiers, Zaniolo premiered as a scorer with the 'Azzurra'. By scoring a brace, Nicolò reached seven goals in 20 games this campaign between club and national team. The young man already scored more than in the whole last season, when he netted six in all tournaments. In addition, Zaniolo became the youngest Roma player to score with Italy. "I fulfilled another dream, but everything that is happening to me has to be the beginning of something and not a point of arrival," said the midfielder after the duel.
The biggest difference from last year is that now Zaniolo is decisive in many aspects of the game, in the goals as we have seen, but also in the generation of opportunities for his teammates. Lying on the right wing of the field, Zaniolo's figures have also improved in terms of dribbling. In the past year, the Roma player averaged 1.39 dribbles per game, while this season, between Serie A and Europa League Nicolò averages 2.63 per duel. Looking at the Champions League and Europa League data, only Messi's 28 dribbles surpass Zaniolo's 17 in European competition. Thus, the Italian star have convinced all his critics, including Fabio Capello, who had once been very critical of the young Roma. "He is maturing. His best position is on the right wing, like Savicevic. He is a great talent, with strength and technique," said the historic coach.
The negative part for Rome is that, with this level, Zaniolo has begun to attract many looks towards the Olympic Stadium of the Italian capital, and rumors about an interest of Manchester United grow day by day. His contract with Rome extends until June 2024, but this has not stopped speculation about his future, although the player himself has tried to stop them and focus on the present. "I am very happy in the club, Roma has given me great confidence and now I want to return it in the field. I am proud to represent these fans, I feel very good here," said Zaniolo before speaking about the challenges of this campaign. "The minimum goal for this season is to improve day by day. We want to win every game. The objective is to qualify for the Champions League," he said, not forgetting one of the culprits of his development. "What Fonseca has to say, he tells you in the face. He is a very direct person and is helping me improve."
Italy and Rome enjoy the present of one of the fashion players in European football, although it will be difficult for the most powerful clubs on the continent not to fight for his services if Nicoló continues at this level. Could Zaniolo be the solution for the tough moment of Manchester United?
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